Thursday, 31 May 2012

Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore


Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug. When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone. 
With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.

When I first read Graceling several years ago, I didn’t enjoy it. Having re-read it again now I can’t understand how on earth not. Ok yes there is one thing that peeved me ever so slightly, but I don’t understand how that managed to colour my entire perception of the book for years, however I’ll get to that in a moment.

Let’s start with how much I love this book and how irritated I am that my younger self didn’t appreciate how fantastic it was the first time around.
The premise is fantastic – it has a mixture of everything I love in books. We’ve got a strong heroine who is most decidedly kick ass but at the same time completely human and compelling. I found myself drawn into Katsa’s life and caring about how the decisions of those around her impacted her and her desperation to try and make a difference and not be who she perceived herself to be. She was such a complex and emotionally drawn character that I couldn’t help falling in love with her and her story. She embodied everything I love in a heroine, strength, determination, mild pig headedness, but also compassion and love and understanding – even when it hurt and cost her to try and feel and understand for others.

We have a fantasy world that has enough sword wielding and tyrannous Kings to keep even the most bloodthirsty readers happy, a beautiful, tumultuous romance to sweep everything along and a terrifyingly real cause to fight for.
It was that beautiful blend of everything in a seamlessly brilliant story that sometimes comes out of nowhere and embraces you in its brilliance, and for a debut novel this is always particularly stunning and exciting, because it means that chances are the author is just going to keep getting better and better, and that is definitely exciting.

We have a host of secondary characters that were just as fascinating and intriguing as Katsa herself. I was very aware that all of my perceptions of them were going to be coloured by how Katsa felt about them, so I'm particularly looking forward to seeing some of them from other view points in later books. I fell in love with Po - he was just so brilliantly handled. A fantastically yummy love interest with so many facets and aspects to explore. I never really wanted it to end- I just wanted to keep on living the Katsa and Po adventures for the next few months...

I loved this idea of the Graces - of them being a mixed blessing and not just for truly awesome things like Katsa and Po's - to be able to hop on one foot without ever getting tired, or be able to eat entire pies in one go... It mixes it up so that it isn't this whole new race of super heroes, it makes it more human, more of a mixed bag. And the idea of them belonging to the King, of never having that freedom for themselves and to be used as tools their whole lives... I found the premise absolutely fascinating and I want to find out more over the coming books to sate my curiosity about this fantastic idea.

The one thing that peeved me the first time, and only mildly irritated this time, was Katsa’s realization of her feelings for Po. It was building so beautifully, and then in the space of a paragraph she suddenly realizes that she loves him. I think I’d been reading a lot of books that went down the insta love route the first time I read this, and that coloured my perception so that all it took was that and I ended up dismissing the book. However this second time through, yes it niggled a little bit, but it didn’t grate on me nearly as much as I was anticipating. It was a lot more subtle than I remembered, and I think I find it even less sudden having now seen the development of Katsa and Po’s relationship throughout the rest of Graceling and now into Bitterblue.

I fell in love with Graceling in a hard and sharp kind of way that I wasn’t expecting at all. It very quickly not only proved itself but found a way into my favourite books of all time and my bookshelf of favourites. It was poetically beautiful, fresh and invigorating, terrifying and stunningingly written. It surprised me and drew me in and made me wonder why on earth it’s taken me so long to get round to reading it again – and on that note, why on earth haven’t I gone on to read the second book in the series ‘Fire’ yet? It’s on my bookshelf waiting, and I think I know precisely what I’m going to next…

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Books I'm Squeeing About in June

There has been a sudden influx of Truly Awesome Books and from the looks of things, it's just going to keep getting better and better. I only have a select few on my list for this month, but that doesn't diminish how excited I am about them - that and it helps save for the next few months when there will be a positive flood of fantastic books...


7th–  Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams
Just down the road from their families, Deo and his friends play soccer in the dusty fields of Zimbabwe, cheered on by Deo's older brother, Innocent. It is a day like any other . . . until the soldiers arrive and Deo and Innocent are forced to run for their lives, fleeing the wreckage of their village for the distant promise of safe haven. Along the way, they face the prejudice and poverty that await refugees everywhere, and must rely on the kindness of people they meet to make it through. But when tragedy strikes, Deo's love of soccer is all he has left. Can he use that gift to find hope once more?
Relevant, timely, and accessibly written, Now Is the Time For Running is a staggering story of survival that follows Deo and his mentally handicapped older brother on a transformative journey that will stick with readers long after the last page.



A truly heartbreaking book about brotherhood, sacrifice, and the desperation of trying to find a better life. A story based on real life stories, Now is the Time for Running broke my heart into little pieces and didn't even attempt to mend it afterwards. Thought provoking, terrifying, poignant, at times breathlessly funny and others heart breakingly sad, a step away from my usual fare in books but utterly brilliant.


7th– Burn Mark by Laura Powell
Glory is from a family of witches and lives beyond the law. She is desperate to develop her powers and become a witch herself. Lucas is the son of the Chief Prosecutor for the Inquisition—the witches’ mortal enemy—and his privileged life is very different to the forbidden world that he lives alongside.
And then on the same day, it hits them both. Glory and Lucas develop the Fae—the mark of the witch. In one fell stroke, their lives are inextricably bound together, whether they like it or not . . .



I'm so excited for this new tale of witchcraft and the Inquisition set in East End London - it's a fantastic new debut from an incredibly promising new author. Full of intrigue, romance and the thrillingly forbidden Fae.


12thFor Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Generations ago, a genetic experiment gone wrong—the Reduction—decimated humanity, giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.
Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth—an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.
But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret—one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever.
Inspired by Jane Austen’s PersuasionFor Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it



I know very little about this book except what I've seen in the blurb, but that hasn't stopped me being incredibly over excited about the entire thing. A modern day take on Persuassion? Hell yes please.


12th– Serpent’s Kiss by Melissa de la Cruz
Just as things have settled down in the off-the-map Long Island town of North Hampton for the magical Beauchamp family, everything gets turned upside down once more when Freya's twin brother Fryr, or "Freddie" as he's called now, returns from Limbo with shocking news - that it was none other than Freya's fiancé, Killian Gardiner, who set up his downfall.
He begs Freya to keep his presence a secret, even from their own family, but somehow the irascible Freddie is still able to conduct many affairs with the town's young lovelies from his self-imposed exile. Until he falls for the wrong girl.
While Freya tries to keep her brother from exacting revenge on the man she loves, Ingrid has her own problems. Her human boyfriend, Matt Noble, becomes entangled in a complicated investigation, and when the magical creatures at the center of it come to Ingrid for help, she has a difficult choice to make.
To top it off, a dead spirit is trying to make contact with Joanna - but does it mean to harm or warn the witches? All hell breaks loose at the family reunion over Thanksgiving, and much mayhem ensues, but when the culprit behind Freddie's imprisonment is finally revealed, it may already be too late to staunch the poison that's been released by the serpent's kiss. The spells cast by the bestselling Witches of East End continue in this bewitching follow-up that Melissa de la Cruz's many fans won't want to miss.



I was suitably captivated by 'Witches of the East End' and I've been looking forward to this sequel ever since - and if the blurb is anything to go by and is going to be an absolutely fantastic follow up to an already extremely good series. 

Friday, 25 May 2012

Review: New Girl by Paige Harbison


Welcome to this stop on the Mira Ink 'New Girl' blog tour!
Huge thanks to Becky at Mira for sending me a copy to review.

A contemporary young-adult retelling inspired by the classic 1938 romantic suspense bestseller Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.
They call me 'New Girl'...

Ever since I arrived at exclusive, prestigious Manderly Academy, that’s who I am. New girl. Unknown. But not unnoticed—because of her.
Becca Normandy—that’s the name on everyone’s lips. The girl whose picture I see everywhere. The girl I can’t compare to. I mean, her going missing is the only reason a spot opened up for me at the academy. And everyone stares at me like it’s my fault.
Except for Max Holloway—the boy whose name shouldn’t be spoken. At least, not by me. Everyone thinks of him as Becca’s boyfriend…but she’s gone, and here I am, replacing her. I wish it were that easy. Sometimes, when I think of Max, I can imagine how Becca’s life was so much better than mine could ever be.
And maybe she’s still out there, waiting to take it back.

While the novel has an intriguing premise, by the end I was left feeling a little cold – and not from chills from the atmosphere. It was a ultimately a bit of a marmite book for me, there were quite a few things I really disliked about it, but at the same time it was dark, oddly compelling and I found I wasn’t really able to put it down.

It was an interesting exploration into a truly psychological tale with very clear comparisons to ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier. Whilst it has been described by some as ‘gossip girl at boarding school’ I wouldn’t really have made that comparison. Yes it does feature the idea of rumours and lies and gossip and how they can snowball and ruin people, but that was where the comparison ended.

The pacing was fantastic, as I said, once I started and got into the story even though there were sections that I really disliked and wanted to put the book down after reading, I found I couldn’t. I was compelled to read it to the end, to find out what happened to all the characters and how the problems were resolved.

I loved how throughout the novel we are never given the narrator’s name, she is permanentely living in Becca’s shadow, until the end when she emerges triumphant to the dawn of a new chapter of her life and is finally named. It’s an intriguing twist, one that I found both frustrating at moments and also was highly impressed by. It’s a hard thing to go through an entire novel without actually naming a character to the reader, so to keep it drawn out right until the last page was something impressive.

The New Girl herself was a really good heroine – yes she had moments where I wanted to shake her but for the most part she was strong, clear headed and sure of herself. And the more she learned about who Becca was, the harder she worked to distinguish herself from her and become her own person. As a character arc I thought that was fantastic, and her story and development was definitely a highlight for me. I loved that we were given a story not of epic saving the world or falling madly in love, but of a girl dealing with the problems of social groups, peers and the viciousness of gossip and rumours when set going in a confined space – similar to how you can see them develop in ‘The Crucible. The only thing I disliked about her was her insistence on going back to Max repeatedly, despite standing up to him and not letting him dictate everything, he really didn’t strike me as the sort of guy who she would want to hand around waiting for him to notice her again, and it frustrated me and I felt weakened her character that she did.

However, the initial premise behind getting ‘New Girl’ to Manderley was terrible. It seemed completely implausible that parents would uproot their daughter in her final year of school for no reason other than she wanted to go when she was thirteen. There were so many other scenarios that would have gotten New Girl to school without that massive hole that got the story off to a bit of a jarring start.

I suppose my biggest problem with the book was the characterization of Becca. The reader is given to understand immediately that she is incapable of thinking of anyone but herself, has no problems with hurting others to get what she wants and demands that the entire world revolves around her. We’re told that her parents dislike her because of something (or several things) she’s done, but we never really fully discover any backstory to that, we never fill in the blanks that could make her into a more three dimensional character. She doesn’t really develop relationships with anyone and uses any feelings anyone else has for her to give her an advantage in her power plays – in other words, she’s a complete sociopath and completely unlikeable. There is no flaw, no chink where the reader might be able to get a grasp on her character, might be able to understand why she acts how she does or find any kind of empathy or sympathy for her. But instead of this realization occurring to the reader as the book progresses, it is a case of being told not shown, right from the first page. It made her character incredibly flat – there was no complexity or development or drive. And yet in some scenes later in the book she appears in a horribly contrived moment to try and repent for all the bad things she’s done. It was mind boggling in its frustration levels.


I also found Max’s attitude towards Becca incredibly forced. At no point does the reader get the feeling that he cares about her in any substantial way. There’s no real chemistry between them, and no sense of the ‘dark fascination’ that Becca holds over virtually every character in the book. There is no real sense of why Max doesn’t just say to everyone that Becca is lying, that these things she keeps saying and doing are all made up, and when she begs him for just one more time, he just complies. As a result he never really developed for me. He stays as this flat character that is quite happy to be steamrollered by an attractive girl for no real reason.

I have quite a large problem with books randomly throwing in backstory for girls that are troubled where they were raped. If it is important to the story, developed and handled well then subject matter like that can really further a book and be incredibly powerful, but when it’s thrown in almost like an after thought and not really explored or resolved or anything then I find it incredibly difficult to read. It feels like it was just a tag on to give the characters a reason to act out and be difficult, not another layer in the emotional build of a character.

So yes, quite a few things that really didn’t work for me personally. However, as I said earlier there was also a lot that did work. Pacing, setting, atmosphere, and New Girl herself, all really fantastic elements that drive the book and keep the weaker moments from floundering. It makes for a very compelling read, but does fall rather heavily into the marmite category – you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it, but either way you’ll find yourself racing to the end to find out how it all resolves.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Review: Enchanted by Althea Kontis


It isn't easy being the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true.
When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland—and a man Sunday’s family despises.

The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction for this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past - and hers?

I’m in a very fairy story/fantasy mood at the moment – something about work being atrocious beings out the escapist in me… So I’m immersing myself in all of the retellings and new spins of fairy tales that have suddenly hit our shelves (and screens. If you haven’t seen ‘Once upon a Time’ yet, I highly recommend it.)

And so Enchanted cropped up on my list, with nothing much to recommend it other than a cover with a girl and a frog on it, and a blurb that talked about Sunday and her six other sisters (also named after days of the week.) It wasn’t much, but it was intriguing.

And for the most part it lived up to my expectations. I loved Sunday and Rumbold both together and individually. I didn’t feel as connected to Rumbold as I did to Sunday, or perhaps it was simply that I found Sunday’s story more interesting than Rumbold’s. It felt like Sunday’s flowed whereas Rumbold’s was very stop/start.

I absolutely adored Sunday’s family. It took a little while to truly recognise and identify each of her siblings and slot all the different bits of information about them together – to start with they just merged together, but once they separated out they were fantastic.

I loved all the different tales interweaved together – some only getting a passing mention like Snow White and the apple, and the Princess and the pea. Some weren’t there at all which I was quite sad about, stories like the twelve dancing princesses, and then there were others like the princess and the frog, jack and the beanstalk that took more of a centre stage. Intermingled with a whole host of new stories that blended together seamlessly. I loved it, it appealed to me on so many levels. The light and elegant story telling, the host of tales and characters interwoven, the humour and magic and the dancing, dresses and fantastic balls – not forgetting nail biting adventure.

There were a few blips along the way – some passages didn’t really read right, so that I had to go back and re-read them several times before they actually made any sense. There were several moments of witty banter between the male characters, which was great, except that it felt like banter meant no furthering of the plot, so there’d be some banter and not much happening and then they felt they had to go off and do something. There were some moments of slightly strained storytelling where I didn’t really feel that all the threads were quite meshing together as they were intended – they slipped in with the passages that were a little awkward.

Perhaps my biggest grievance though was that some of the most important scenes were only referred to in hindsight. When Sunday and her family find out about some of their strange abilities the scene is glossed over, and we find out about them in a very off hand manner when two of the characters talk about it later. It felt like the author almost didn’t know how to write that scene, so skipped over it, and that was incredibly irritating. It felt like it would have been a really important scene with a lot of development for a lot of the characters and I felt cheated to have been denied it.

On the whole though I absolutely adored it. It was light and fresh and took a new spin on old fairy tales and wove some together that I never saw coming. It was very well done and incredibly enjoyable and will definitely be a book that I revisit again and again when I fancy some light fairy tale escapism.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Author Q&A with Julie Kagawa


With the release of 'The Immortal Rules' at the end of last month, Julie Kagawa has been insanely busy promoting the new series - but she was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about the book, the transition from The Iron Fey series to the Immortal Rules and the challenges and excitements of writing.
A huge thank you to Julie for taking the time out to talk to us!

"This is a new and exciting step from your Iron Fey series, can you tell us a little bit more about what your inspirations for it were?"

I had been toying with writing a post-apocalyptic YA story after The Iron Fey, when my agent suggested I might want to try vampires.  Although not terribly intrigued with the idea at first, I then had the thought of combining the two, and from there everything sort of fell into place.

"Did you find the separation from the first series a challenge or a welcome break? And how did you find working on something that was so different?"

Is both an acceptable answer? It’s always fun to explore new and unfamiliar characters and learn who they are as you write them, and I enjoy building new worlds and filling them with stories. At the same time, the characters of the Iron Fey series are like old friends, and going back and writing more on them and their world is like putting on an old, comfortable hoodie.

"Did your writing process vary at all from how you'd written the Fey series? Did you try out any new techniques or ideas?"

When I was writing The Iron Fey, setting played a big part.  I tried to create a setting, the Nevernever, that was haunting and beautiful and surreal.  But when I switched to writing about vampires is a post-apocalyptic world, my main focus was making this setting bleak, desolate, and extremely dangerous.  No one is safe, there is violence and bloodshed, and not everyone will make it out alive.  I really wanted to showcase the hopelessness and despair, because even in the darkest times you still have those who cling to hope, and humanity plays a big part in The Immortal Rules. 

"Can you tell us the most exciting part about for you about the new book and the most challenging?"

The most difficult scene to write was probably the stay at the Archer farm.  I knew something had to go down, something big, for the repercussions between Allie and another character to happen.  The easiest (and most exciting) parts were anytime Allie was fighting something, be it rabids, raiders, other vampires, ect.  I love a good fight scene, especially if there is a katana involved.

"And finally can you give us any sneaky peeks or hints at what you're working on next?"
I'm in the middle of writing the sequel now, and all I can say is that Allie will meet new and old faces, fight her Hunger, and discover a monstrous enemy who has dark plans for her and the entire world.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Review: Team Human by Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier


Huge thanks to Sarah Rees Brennan for sending me a copy to review

Release Date: 3rd July 2012


This review is spoiler free!

When a vampire shows up at Mel’s high school, it’s up to Mel to keep her best friend from falling in love with him. Add a mysterious disappearance, a cranky vampire cop, a number of unlikely romantic entanglements, and the occasional zombie, and soon Mel is hip-deep in an adventure that is equal parts hilarious and poignant.

This book is the best thing since sliced bread. And as a result it has taken me an insanely long time to write this review, because it’s been ridiculously hard to write anything beyond ‘OH DEAR GOD THIS BOOK IS AWESOME YOU MUST READ IT NOW!’ And whilst some might say that would be simple and effective, I feel a whole page of it might make me look like a crazy person.

Ever since I first saw at the end of last year that this book had come into existence, I have gone absolutely insane with longing for it, because it is co-written by one of my favourite authors in the whole wide world, Sarah Rees Brennan, and quite frankly I would read anything she wrote, even if it was just crazy things on the back of cereal boxes. So to find out that she was part of a fab team and they had written a fantastic satirical book on vampires, love and the vampire craze that has swept the world was almost enough to send me to my fainting couch.

Its arrival on my doorstep with a little note from the author in question was enough to send me to my fainting couch.

And then I read it. And I laughed from the first page, and I was completely hooked and sniggered and sobbed my way through it, and then when it was over I shook my fist at the sky and proclaimed that it was cruel that they must leave me hanging for the sequel for A WHOLE YEAR.

You see I had heard good things about Justine Larbalestier, but I must confess I haven’t yet read anything else that she has written, and I came to this only knowing (and loving) Sarah Rees Brennan’s writing style. But the two combined are without doubt a dream team of writing skills.

It has the humour you would expect – after all this is a satire on why dating vampires is a very bad idea. It has the brilliant plot, characterization and setting that you would anticipate from two such accomplished writers, but what I wasn’t expecting (which was insanely foolish of me) was how much it tugged at my heart and made me cry. It had everything. Vampires! Zombies! True Love! Sarcasm! Irony! Witty and Feisty Ladies! Swoonworthy gentlemen (both of the living and dead variety) but most of all it had heart. (Excuse me whilst I get all mushy for a minute.) Because whilst it would have been fantastic regardless, the fact that it could take me to both extremes of emotion so beautifully and realistically bumped it up into the truly spectacular category. I was completely enthralled and drawn into the story, and the further in I got the more I felt for the characters.

I like my books to have a bit of everything, and this one most certainly did, in bucket loads. I loved Mel, she was just the type of heroine that this story needed. Funny, kind, strong and loyal to her friends, and with a healthy dose of mistrust of vampires thrown in for good measure. It was so refreshing to see her level headed approach to the world and the supernatural beasties, particularly in contrast to her best friend Cathy who embodies the swoony dreamy approach to vampires that has had the world in its grip since Twilight came out. It was just so fantastic to see both of those sides contrasted together, the two extremes and how they cope with the differences and fears that arise with their belief sets. It was a fascinating look at this idea of true love and eternal love and the two different mind sets involved – the practical ‘he will eat you alive for supper’ of Mel, and the ‘he sees right into my very soul *sigh*’ of Cathy. It was just so brilliantly portrayed and such a breath of fresh air, and I loved it.

Add to that a healthy dose of mystery and suspense, and a whole cast of truly fantastic characters and you can begin to see why I fell in love with this book so much. I won’t however go into any more detail because I really don’t want to spoil it.

So basically, what I have been rambling on about and attempting to say is that this book may well be the best thing you read this year. It’s fantastic. And the only reason I am only saying it may be the best book you read this year, is because I have yet to read ‘Unspoken’ (also by Sarah Rees Brennan, how did you guess?) which is out later this year and I have a feeling this may be crowding in on the top spot too. Mind you, I am biased…

But regardless whether you are a fan of Justine, or Sarah, or vampires, or not a fan of vampire books, this is an absolutely fantastic book and is most definitely the book for you.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Review: Struck by Jennifer Bosworth


Huge thanks to Harriet at Random House for sending me a copy to review

Struck is released today!

Mia Price is a lightning addict. She's survived countless strikes, but her craving to connect to the energy in storms endangers her life and the lives of those around her.
Los Angeles, where lightning rarely strikes, is one of the few places Mia feels safe from her addiction. But when an earthquake devastates the city, her haven is transformed into a minefield of chaos and danger. The beaches become massive tent cities. Downtown is a crumbling wasteland, where a traveling party moves to a different empty building each night, the revelers drawn to the destruction by a force they cannot deny. Two warring cults rise to power, and both see Mia as the key to their opposing doomsday prophecies. They believe she has a connection to the freak electrical storm that caused the quake, and to the far more devastating storm that is yet to come.

Mia wants to trust the enigmatic and alluring Jeremy when he promises to protect her, but she fears he isn't who he claims to be. In the end, the passion and power that brought them together could be their downfall. When the final disaster strikes, Mia must risk unleashing the full horror of her strength to save the people she loves, or lose everything.

I have been so excited about this book ever since I first heard about it at the Random House bloggers brunch back in January. I immediately got excited (just look at that blurb, you can see why!) and it most definitely lived up to my expectations.

The writing is excellent, fast paced and completely engrossing. I literally couldn’t pick the book down once I’d started it. It drags you in from the first and keeps you hanging until the final page. Made up of short but fantastic chapters I kept convincing myself just one more chapter would be fine, and before I knew it, it was three in the morning and I was nearly finished. The action covers three days leading up to the ‘end of the world’ and the tension never once lets up. It’s fantastically written and really kept me on the edge of my seat and desperate to find out how on earth they could all get out of this alive.

Mia was a really great character – strong, independent, but fiercely loyal and protective of those she cared about I immediately felt for her and her situation. She was a character that I wanted to get to know, to find out what had happened to and to find out more about this crazy world she was trying to survive in.

The world was terrifyingly close to our own, a brilliant play on some of the horrific natural disasters we’ve seen and how the mob mentality can rise up out of that and set up one or two as saviours who will lead us all out of this mess. I really loved how Bosworth explored that idea and how something like that can grow exponentially and spiral out of control. The different factions that can rise and the different people desperate to gain power; it was fascinating.

I would have liked to see a bit more of Jeremy, to find out a little bit more about him. We do get a lot of history peppered throughout the book, but there were some moments where I didn’t feel entirely convinced by him. I wanted to see a little more of him and Mia interacting and getting to know each other – not just their fantastic chemistry. But on the other hand the fast pace of the novel doesn’t exactly leave room for soul searching and life stories – I just would have liked a little more slotted into the book with him and Mia. The same goes for some of the other secondary characters. They were really well constructed, and really leapt off the page right from the start, but there was so much more about them that I wanted to know, backstory and information and just more of them. It’s a mark of well written they were. I’m curious to see if this is a standalone or the start of something bigger, and if it is a series I’d love to see more of the secondary characters and get to know them a little better because there was so much more to them, backstory to the Seekers that I would love to know.

‘Struck’ is an absolutely fantastic debut novel and marks Jennifer as an author to watch. If this is the standard of her first outing I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next – I have a feeling that it is just going to get better and better.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Review: Endure by Carrie Jones


Huge thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me a copy to review
Release Date: 10th May 2012

Zara is at the center of an impending apocalypse. True, she’s successfully rescued Nick from Valhalla, but it simply isn’t enough. Evil pixies are ravaging Bedford, and they need much more than one great warrior; they need an army. Zara isn’t sure what her role is anymore. She’s not just fighting for her friends; she’s also a pixie queen. And to align her team of pixies with the humans she loves will be one of her greatest battles yet. Especially since she can’t even reconcile her growing feelings for her pixie king…
Unexpected turns, surprising revelations, and one utterly satisfying romantic finale make Endure a thrilling end to this series of bestsellers.

I really wasn’t fussed on the third book in this series, which was a shame given how much I loved the first two books, so I went into this final instalment with a little trepidation. I shouldn’t have worried though, it was completely fantastic and an utterly brilliant conclusion to the series.

Unlike the third instalment this was completely satisfying, brilliantly written and I loved it. There were consequences for actions, and character arcs and development and so many twists and turns that I was thoroughly dizzy by the end – but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was the ending the series deserved and I was so happy to be back amongst the characters I had come to know and love and to see them take on the evilness once and for all.

I loved how Carrie handled the love triangle – so often they are handled badly and leave the reader feeling put out and frustrated with the conclusion, but I was completely satisfied with how everything played out. I think in part because she truly let actions have consequences and Zara didn’t just roll over and pretend nothing had ever happened. It made the relationships and the characters even more realistic.

I think that the mythology played a much better part in this book than it had previously. I was shocked and taken aback by it in the last book – it didn’t feel like it truly belonged and I wasn’t completely convinced by the placement of pixies and Norse mythology side by side, but what it lacked in the last book it completely made up for in this one. They gelled perfectly and complimented each other and I found myself not only believing the combination but really enjoying it as well.

It was a fantastically satisfying conclusion, but it was in no means without fear and terror and completely and utter uncertainty of the outcome – and who would make it through. Once again Carrie showed her skill as a writer and I was on the edge of my seat the whole way through, desperate to find out whether good would triumph over evil, and whether the right people would end up together. I cannot wait to see where Carrie goes next – she has a fantastic gift for blending the real and fantastical and creating brilliantly believable and real characters the we feel for and root for, fight and cry for, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what she turns her hand to next.

Fans of the series will love this final instalment, and those of you who haven’t yet discovered this series? I suggest you hop on the bandwagon and see what all the fuss is about.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Books I'm Squeeing About in May

Apologies for how belated this post is - April was a crazy month with many good books and some old favourites coming out for re-reads, and May looks set to be bigger and better than ever! There are some huge excitements hitting the shelves this month, so take a look at what you should be putting on your wishlist this month!


1st - Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore


Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.
Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart



This book arrived in the post yesterday, and it is huge! I love it so far (I'm a big sucker for the covers for this series) and I cannot wait to dive straight back into the world Cashore has created.


3rd - Until I Die by Amy Plum


Kate and Vincent have overcome the odds and at last they are together in Paris, the city of lights and love. As their romance deepens there’s one question they can’t ignore: How are they supposed to be together if Vincent can’t resist sacrificing himself to save others? Although Vincent promises that he’ll do whatever it takes to lead a normal life with Kate, will that mean letting innocent people die? When a new and surprising enemy reveals itself, Kate realizes that even more may be at stake—and that Vincent’s immortality is in jeopardy.


I was surprisingly taken with Plum's first novel in the series 'Die For Me' it was fresh and intriguing and featured a whole new type of supernatural creature, so I'm really looking forward to finding out where this sequel takes us next - and will it live up to the standard set by the first?


8th - City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare


The demon Lilith has been destroyed and Jace has been freed from her captivity. But when the Shadowhunters arrive to rescue him, they find only blood and broken glass. Not only is the boy Clary loves missing–but so is the boy she hates, Sebastian, the son of her father Valentine: a son determined to succeed where their father failed, and bring the Shadowhunters to their knees.
No magic the Clave can summon can locate either boy, but Jace cannot stay away—not from Clary. When they meet again Clary discovers the horror Lilith’s dying magic has wrought—Jace is no longer the boy she loved. He and Sebastian are now bound to each other, and Jace has become what he most feared: a true servant of Valentine’s evil. The Clave is determined to destroy Sebastian, but there is no way to harm one boy without destroying the other. Will the Shadowhunters hesitate to kill one of their own?
Only a small band of Clary and Jace’s friends and family believe that Jace can still be saved — and that the fate of the Shadowhunters’ future may hinge on that salvation. They must defy the Clave and strike out on their own. Alec, Magnus, Simon and Isabelle must work together to save Jace: bargaining with the sinister Faerie Queen, contemplating deals with demons, and turning at last to the Iron Sisters, the reclusive and merciless weapons makers for the Shadowhunters, who tell them that no weapon on this earth can sever the bond between Sebastian and Jace. Their only chance of cutting Jace free is to challenge Heaven and Hell — a risk that could claim any, or all, of their lives.
And they must do it without Clary. For Clary has gone into the heart of darkness, to play a dangerous game utterly alone. The price of losing the game is not just her own life, but Jace’s soul. She’s willing to do anything for Jace, but can she even still trust him? Or is he truly lost? What price is too high to pay, even for love?
Darkness threatens to claim the Shadowhunters in the harrowing fifth book of the Mortal Instruments series



By lucky happenstance I already have my copy and I can tell you now, it's awesome. Not that I was expecting any less, I have been eagerly waiting to see what happens next since the gut wrenching conclusion to City of Fallen Angels this time last year, and so far? It's epic...


8th - Enchanted by Althea Kontis


It isn't easy being the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true.
When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland—and a man Sunday’s family despises.
The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction for this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past - and hers?



I don't know all that much about this book other than it features some well known fairy tales and has a pretty cover, but right now I am all about the fairy tales, they're cropping up everywhere and there are some truly awesome re-tellings coming out, so I'm fascinated to see how this one compares.


10th - Endure by Carrie Jones


Zara is at the center of an impending apocalypse. True, she’s successfully rescued Nick from Valhalla, but it simply isn’t enough. Evil pixies are ravaging Bedford, and they need much more than one great warrior; they need an army. Zara isn’t sure what her role is anymore. She’s not just fighting for her friends; she’s also a pixie queen. And to align her team of pixies with the humans she loves will be one of her greatest battles yet. Especially since she can’t even reconcile her growing feelings for her pixie king...Unexpected turns, surprising revelations, and one utterly satisfying romantic finale make Endure a thrilling end to this series of bestsellers.


I wasn't a massive fan of the third book in the series but this finale is actually pretty epic. I re-remembered all the reasons why I love this series and these characters, and it truly is an epic finale to remember.


10th - Struck by Jennifer Bosworth


Mia Price is a lightning addict. She's survived countless strikes, but her craving to connect to the energy in storms endangers her life and the lives of those around her.
Los Angeles, where lightning rarely strikes, is one of the few places Mia feels safe from her addiction. But when an earthquake devastates the city, her haven is transformed into a minefield of chaos and danger. The beaches become massive tent cities. Downtown is a crumbling wasteland, where a traveling party moves to a different empty building each night, the revelers drawn to the destruction by a force they cannot deny. Two warring cults rise to power, and both see Mia as the key to their opposing doomsday prophecies. They believe she has a connection to the freak electrical storm that caused the quake, and to the far more devastating storm that is yet to come.
Mia wants to trust the enigmatic and alluring Jeremy when he promises to protect her, but she fears he isn't who he claims to be. In the end, the passion and power that brought them together could be their downfall. When the final disaster strikes, Mia must risk unleashing the full horror of her strength to save the people she loves, or lose everything.



I'm about to start this one and so far it's pretty awesome. The premise is great, the writing excellent and I'm loving everything about it so far. But shush, no spoilers!


22nd - The Girl In The Clockwork Collar


In New York City, 1897, life has never been more thrilling - or dangerous. 
Sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne and her "straynge band of mysfits" have journeyed from London to America to rescue their friend Jasper, hauled off by bounty hunters. But Jasper is in the clutches of a devious former friend demanding a trade-the dangerous device Jasper stole from him...for the life of the girl Jasper loves. One false move from Jasper and the strange clockwork collar around Mei's neck tightens. And tightens.



The first book was intriguing but it didn't quite live up to the expectations I had of it, but for some reason I cannot tear myself away. Despite all the problems and flaws I'm really intrigued by this series and want to find out what happens next.


29th - A Night Like This by Julia Quinn


Anne Wynter’s job as governess to three highborn young ladies can be a challenge – in a single week she finds herself hiding in a closet full of tubas, playing an evil queen in a play and tending to the wounds of the oh-so-dashing Earl of Winstead. After years of dodging unwanted advances, he's the first man who has truly tempted her, and it's getting harder and harder to remind herself that a governess has no business flirting with a nobleman.
Daniel Smythe-Smith might be in mortal danger, but that's not going to stop the young earl from falling in love. And when he spies a mysterious woman at his family's annual musicale, he vows to pursue her. But Daniel has an enemy, one who has vowed to see him dead. And when Anne is thrown into peril, he will stop at nothing to ensure their happy ending...



I am a huge Julia Quinn fan, her books are the chicken soup for my soul, so I always get insanely excited at this time of year when a new book of hers hits the shelves - expect a lot of Julia Quinn love in the weeks to come!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Review: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa


Welcome to Day 10 of The Immortal Rules Blog Tour. Don’t forget to check out all the other stops on the tour – listed on the banner to the left!

Huge thanks to Becky at Mira for sending me a copy to review!

In a future world, Vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity. 
Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.
Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of 
them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked—and given the ultimate choice. Die or become one of the monsters.

Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.

Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend—a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.
But it isn't easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what—and who—is worth dying for.

I was really excited to see what Julie did next following the monumental success of her Iron Fey series, and sticking the with supernatural but making the leap to Vampires seemed like an interesting idea. I liked the slight twist on all of the vampire fiction we’ve been getting recently – having them not as something desirable and fantastic, but as a menacing overlord who have enslaved humanity. Much more my cup of tea given my current mood!

The book took a while to get going. In part this was because of the characters. All of the introductory characters within the first hundred pages or so really didn’t do it for me. None of them had any likeable traits or personalities and I found myself not really rooting for any of their survivals – not a great start particularly as one of these was the heroine. I just found her to be too cold, too calculating, and yes that was needed to survive in a world like this one, but at the same time the reader does need something to latch on to, to identify with and want to go on this journey with the character and see them through to the end, and I didn’t find that with Allison for quite some time.

The other thing that slowed me down was the prose. It’s very wordy, a vast amount of description – which is needed to set up this crumbling world, but at the same time it slows the story down at the beginning. Despite the ever present tension and looming menace I didn’t really feel that there was anything truly driving the story for the first part, and I like to have a drive established pretty early on – and by drive I mean something more than survival when I haven’t taken to the main character yet.

However, the slightly faulty start was soon forgotten as we emerged into the epic scope of the bulk of the novel. Kagawa has proven herself a master at supernatural, at world building and plots and at creating involving and terrifying stories. And this is by no means an exception.

Fans of hers will love this new series with a strong and determined (once we got to know her a little better!) heroine at its heart and an interesting new premise for this series. And those who haven’t yet discovered her writing? I think this is potentially her best novel yet, and is most definitely a great one to welcome you to her writing.

The novel is dark and terrifying, and as I’ve said, a fantastic chance to see vampires as the more feared and terrifying versions of themselves. Kagawa truly excels at world building, offering up enough information without going overboard and slotting it into the novel so that gradually the world starts to piece together as we learn along with Allie. Once I got past my initial hang ups with Allie and learned more about her character she turned into a truly fantastic heroine. Strong, brave and desperate to help others and put them before herself despite her survival instincts trying to save herself first, she really was a fantastic heroine to journey through this novel with. It’s a brilliant book, not just supernatural with a coming of age story at its heart, but also takes a look at acceptance and growth and I loved watching Allie come to terms with her new life and grow into a strong and fearless warrior. It was also great to have a romance that didn’t overtake the rest of the story, to have a slow burn that didn’t eclipse everything else and leaves plenty of room for development in the next book.

I’m really looking forward to seeing where Kagawa goes from here, which of the characters we get to see more of and where Allie’s journey takes her next.
A fantastic book full of brilliant writing, dark suspense and a compellingly real heroine at its heart, I highly recommend this book.