Thursday, 30 December 2010

Looking ahead to 2011

That's 2010 over, well nearly! Soon it will be January and while the weather may not be improving much at least the days are getting lighter sooner and I can start to look forward to going to and leaving the office in daylight rather than by street light.


Melissa at My World...in words and pages asked the question what are your News Resolution? I've been giving it a lot of thought in the past week...

I've been blogging since mid August and so far I've been having a blast and met some great people. Thanks so much to everyone who has stopped by, big thanks to all my followers and huge, huge thanks to everyone who has left a comment - I appreciate it so much! So what can you expect in 2011 here at Mels Random Reviews?

- More Reviews: I'm going to continue aiming for two or three reviews a week. I may even get a  couple of friends to write the odd guest reviews.
- More Guest Posts: if anyone has any ideas for guest posts or would like to write their own Book Temple or Books Remembered post please let me know and we can hash out some details
- Giveaway or two: everyone likes a free book or two and I've been lucky in 2010 to have won some fab books. So I'm paying it forward with some giveaways throughout the year.

And as far as my Reading goals for 2011, there's a couple of aims for the next year

- Shorten my TBR pile - some of those books have been waiting to be read for years so my aim for this year to at least get the pile down to two shelves.
- Reading Challenges - I'm taking part in three reading challenges this year plus a personal challenge (Details on 2011 Challenge Page at the top) and I want to complete them all!

So that's my plan for 2011 - what do you think? Anything I can do differently? Just let me know! :)

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Spy Glass review

Spy Glass (Opal Cowan 3)
-       Maria V Snyder
Publisher: UK – MIRA Books
*Warning Description will contain Spoilers if you haven’t read the previous two books*
An undercover mission leads to danger, adventure and an impossible choice. After siphoning her own blood magic in the showdown at Hubal, Opal Cowan has lost her powers. She can no longer create glass magic. More, she's immune to the effects of magic. Opal is now an outsider looking in, spying through the glass on those with the powers she once had, powers that make a difference in the world. Until spying through the glass becomes her new power. Suddenly, the beautiful pieces she makes flash in the presence of magic. And then she discovers that someone has stolen some of her blood - and that finding it might let her regain her powers. Or know it could be they are lost forever.
This is the final of the Opal Cowan books and I’m sorry it’s over. I feel like there could easily be another book covering the consequences of this story. Opal has changed so much from the rather timid, unsure student magician we first met in Storm Glass. She has learnt a variety of skills, physical, emotional, magical and intellectual and this book covers some truly personal revelations as well answering most of the loose threads from the previous novels.
Opal’s character development has been the joy of this series as she makes mistakes and learns from them, decides who to trust and colours in various shades of grey in her world that they don’t warn children about. In this book Opal takes control of her own destiny at last and makes decisions throughout that will affect others as well as conscientiously develops skills that will help her in her missions. While still told through the first person, you can get a clear view of how Opal’s relationships with people change especially with Kade and Devlan, her two love interests and her mother. Her decision regarding her love interest in the end was the right one for her, but I still feel for the other one.
The big finale was exciting as Opal has to face her decisions and friends in a show down for her life and future. The bad guys here were truly despicable and while previously I never cared much for Opal opponents, I never despised them before. This time I really wanted them to fail and needed to see them punished.
This is a great series with plenty of action, mystery, politics and magic throughout and I really hope Maria V Snyder decides to write further novels based in Sitia. Please try some of her books if you’re interested in magical romance and different worlds.
Recommended for fans of Jim Butcher and Karen Miller. 8 out of 10   

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

My Favourite Reads of 2010

What a year 2010 has been! I've bought my very first property, started blogging seriously, have met a load of fantastic people online and have read over 150 books. Some of which have been fantastic and some of which are merely ok. Below I've listed in no particular order some of my favourite reads of 2010 - all of which are highly recommended.

A Madness of Angels/The Midnight Mayor - Kate Griffin

These are the first two books following the adventures of Matthew Swift and sorcerer in modern London. Kate Griffin has a fantastic flaw for describing ordinary London and making it magical - as a Londoner myself I adore her version of London, where graffiti can be magic and magician walk among us.


Feed - Mira Grant

The first of the Newsflesh series, set some years after the zombie Apocalypse has occurred. I've never really been fond of zombies before, but this books covers how life adjusts itself to something like zombies and brings in politics and blogging into the world. Plus plenty of action and great characters make this a great read - and something I think bloggers may get even more out as the main characters run a blog!


Chaos Walking Trilogy - The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the The Answer, Of Monsters and Men - Patrick Ness

This was one of the best trilogies I've ever read. The two main characters Todd and Viola have a fantastic relationship and trust that develops across the course of the book. It is very much a coming of age story and the shades of grey that the adult world is filled with. Plus there is a very creepy bad guy, the Mayor who is intent on turning Todd to the dark side. Best YA books ever!

Divine By Mistake - PC Cast

The first of the Divine trilogy by PC Cast is the best in my opinion. I absolutely loved Shannon, a slightly older heroine and how she copes with new world she suddenly finds herself in. Plus I never thought centaurs would be sexy but they are.

Wizard Squared - KE Mills

Comic fantasy with a great serious streak that stops the series from being silly. This book had me on the edge of my seat and in floods of tears by the end. Fantasy with heart, humour and action.


There are plenty of other good reads this year as well, but these are the absolute cream of the crop and you should all rush out right now to read them! :)

So what have you read in 2010 that I should pick up in 2011?

Monday, 27 December 2010

Sea Glass Review

Sea Glass (Opal Cowan 2)
-       Maria V Snyder
Publisher: UK – MIRA Books
Student glass magician Opal Cowan's newfound ability to steal a magician's powers makes her too powerful. Ordered to house arrest, Opal dares defy her imprisonment, travelling to the Moon Clan's lands in search of Ulrick, the man she thinks she loves. Thinks because she is sure another man - now her prisoner - has switched souls with Ulrick. In hostile territory, without proof or allies, Opal isn't sure whom to trust. She can't forget Kade, the handsome Stormdancer who doesn't want to let her get close. And now everyone is after Opal's special powers for their own deadly gain.
So after her adventures in Storm Glass, Opal has discovered new secrets and new abilities but has become even more isolated from her fellow magicians and friends. This is re-enforced when other people don’t believe that there are still blood magicians loose in Sitia. Opal spends much of this book fighting for what she believes is right against all her friends and colleagues and learns to depend much more on herself. She still manages to make new friends and travel across the country in the course of the story. Opal is willing to sacrifice herself again to safe other people and is frequently between doing what she knows is right and what everyone else thinks is right. As a result Opal does question herself a lot throughout the story and there is a great glimpse into her mind and how she comes to trust herself more and perhaps rely less on other people to solve her problems.
Once again there is plenty of adventure and appearances from old friends. I loved that Janco is given more time and Kade is such a lovely guy, but the development of Develan is a real treasure. Like Opal I’m never sure if she can trust him or not, but I want to be able to trust him. The greatest joy of the Glass series though is the writing – it’s is beautifully done in a well developed world. It never feels like this is a story but following a real person and their life. This makes for involving reading but also one of my minor drawbacks with the series – there is little sense of urgency for much of the book. The story seems to get distracted at times from the overall arc as little issues are raised and not fully developed – yet. The joys of reading a trilogy is figuring out how something like the Bloodrose clan will come into the story later – if they do!
One final point I want to add - the cover art for the UK is gorgeous! I love all three covers and the colour scheme for each one just seems to fit with the story so far.
This is a great fantasy series – especially is you like a little romance with your magical adventures! I’ve already started the third book, Spy Glass and can’t wait to see how Opal develops further.
Recommended for fans of Kelly Armstrong and Patricia Briggs. 8 out of 10.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Under Construction

Hi all! Hope you all had a fab break whether you celebrate Christmas or not! I spent the time with family and ate a huge meal and far too much chocolate. Now I'm looking forward to not having to go to work until the New Year! Plenty of time for book shopping, reading and blogging! ;-)

In the next week I'm also going to be experimenting with the design of the blog - I want to change the background slightly and possible add some pages. So just be warned that format may change a little, but should all finished by next Sunday - there will still be a few reviews going up so don't worry! Please stick with me through this adjustments - it should make the blog easier to navigate! I'm also going to be looking at the content to see if I'm getting a good balance between reviews, memes and randomness. So if there is anything you would like to see more off, please let me know through the comments or email on the right hand side. Otherwise I'm wishing you all a relaxed week - these 'dead' days....

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

No post tomorrow as I will be enjoying far too much food and drink with my family, but I wanted to wish evryone out there a very Merry Christmas. Even if you don't celebrate I wish you lots of book loving and winter warmers of all sorts! :)

Thursday, 23 December 2010

A Christmas Carol Review

A Christmas Carol
- Charles Dickens
Kindle Book

Ebenezer Scrooge is a mean, miserable, bitter old man with no friends. One cold Christmas Eve, three ghosts take him on a scary journey to show him the error of his nasty ways. By visiting his past, present and future, Scrooge learns to love Christmas and the people all around him.

I’ve never read A Christmas Carol before but I know the story from having watched multiple versions over the years on TV. Around this time of year it is extremely unusual for a day to go by without at least one film of TV adaptation of the story to be shown – every variation from musical version to modern and not forgetting the Muppets! J As a result, I was slight intimidated to read the original story in case it didn’t match up to the ‘story’ I knew so well. But I’m nothing if not brave (in my reading choices at least!) and started it on my train journey up to Leeds. Outside of the cities there was still a lot of snow on the ground and it was a perfect background for this winter tale of redemption.

The story starts on Christmas Eve with the narrator telling us Marley is dead quite emphatically before introducing Scrooge and his miserly ways. The style of writing was not what I was expecting – it is written in the same way as you would tell a ghost story around the camp fire with the author referring to himself as a person throughout (as you and I would never do) and this lends an element of the familiar and personal connection to the story. This is re-enforced by many of the lines and phrases throughout which have been faithfully rendered into film and as such are familiar (“There’s more of Gravy than of Grave about you!”). In fact I’m amazed at how faithful most of the films have been! The story isn’t a long one and I finished it within a day, swept up in the prose, the story and the emotion. I was with Scrooge throughout as his hard heart melts and he is given a second chance – and I even had a tear in my eye at the end.

In all, the reading of A Christmas Carol was like coming home and putting on a big comfortable jumper – you know exactly what you’re going to get but there is no better feeling in the world. If you haven’t read it I strongly urge you to give it a try. Besides, how many other paranormal seasonal stories are going to give you the same emotional buzz?

Recommended for everyone. 10 out of 10.

And just for fun my favourite version of A Christmas Carol has to be the one with Gonzo as Charles Dickens! :)



Wednesday, 22 December 2010

What have I let myself in for? Or 2011 Personal Classic Challenge


A few weeks ago I asked what challenges I should sign for in 2011. After searching round I decided to sign for three official challenges - Book Chick City's Mystery & Suspense, Floor to Ceiling Books Speculative Fiction and Book Vixen's YA of the 80s & 90s (if you are interested in any of these please check them out on my sidebar on the right!). One of my friends also suggested I throw in a few classics of a genre basis to mix it up. It sounded intriguing so I asked him to write me a few guidelines that I could post as a personal challenge to myself for next year. Boy, did he deliver...

I've known Kris for years and he certainly wasn't afraid to make sure it was a challenge! Below is his terms and conditions:

Below are my terms for reading a classic every three months:
  1. Firstly the classic must be a classic or at least 20 years old;
  2. it has to set a definition for the genre or change it in a way which ‘inspire’ later writers;
  3. available for free or a reduced price and
  4. semi easy to read.
So my task for Mel is to read:
  1. Homer’s Odyssey – this is the cornerstone of Western Cannon and seems to have the basis for most fantasy. Easements: You can read a modern version (i.e. made into something that is easier to read).
  2. Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, Foundation and Empire and Second Foundation. Yes I know it is three books, but they are short ones. They are very good and they are the foundation (not a pun) for modern space epic’s such as Iain M Banks Culture and Star Trek. The Foundation series was published in 1942 and then collected in proper book in the 50s.
  3. Ring World by Larry Niven. I thought it looked quite good. It is a interesting story about a space structure.
  4. Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard I have not read these book, but I think they may underpin some hero fantasy or it might be tripe.
Good luck :-)

Gulp! Now, I'm scared! But I going to give it a good go. I'm also going to try a to add a few other classics to that list including Frankenstein, Dracula, The Three Musketeers and maybe some HG Wells - all of which some under the Inspiration to other writers condition.  So what do you think of this challenge? Any other classics I should read?

*Shameless Plug* And if you've got some time stop by Kris's blog here - it's not about books but focus's on knitting and public transport in London. Might seem like a strange combination at first but it works! And he's rants about commute are both familiar and funny to other commuters! :)

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The Sevenfold Spell Review

The Sevenfold Spell
-      Tia Nevitt
Ecopy curtsy of netgallery & Carina Press
Things look grim for Talia and her mother. By royal proclamation, the constables and those annoying “good” fairies have taken away their livelihood by confiscating their spinning wheel. Something to do with a curse on the princess, they said.
Not every young lady has a fairy godmother rushing to her rescue.
Without the promise of an income from spinning, Talia’s prospects for marriage disappear, and she and her mother face destitution. Past caring about breaking an arbitrary and cruel law, rebellious Talia determines to build a new spinning wheel, the only one in the nation, which plays right into the evil fairy’s diabolical plan. Talia discovers that finding a happy ending requires sacrifice. But is it a sacrifice she’s willing to make?
I love fairy stories (as I think I might have mentioned before!) and I was really excited when I received a copy of the Seven-Fold Spell from netgallery for review. I started reading it the same day and I’m so happy that I wasn’t disappointed.
This is the ‘true’ story behind the sleeping beauty tale and a great example of how these fantastical stories impact the ordinary people in this fairy tale world. It starts with Talia and her mother losing their main income when the ruling royal family outlaws spinning after their daughter, the princess is cursed by a fairy. The story is told in first person and includes Talia’s growth from teen to mature woman. She is an ordinary girl – in both looks and prospects who struggles to find her place. The new law that prevents her from spinning means she loses the boy she was planning on marrying and her whole life changes. Most fairy tales always focus on the hero, heroine and obstacles/bad guys. This really looks at how a regular person can be affected by the main players and even influences the outcome of the story. It’s the story of how anyone can make a difference if they do the best they can with the circumstances.
The story isn’t a long one and not suited for children – very much an adult version of a fairy tale and I really enjoyed it. I gobbled up the prose and loved Talia and her modern outlook on life despite the old fashioned society she lives in. A modern version of the fairy tale and I want to read more please Tia!
Recommended for fans of Karen Miller & Ilona Andrews. 8 out of 10.  

Monday, 20 December 2010

Storm Glass Review

Storm Glass (Opal Cowan 1)
-       Maria V Snyder
Publisher: UK – Mira Books
Untrained. Untested. Unleashed. With her unique magical abilities, Opal has always felt unsure of her place at Sitia's magic academy. But when the Stormdancer clan needs help, Opal's knowledge makes her the perfect choice - until the mission goes awry. Pulling her powers in unfamiliar directions, Opal finds herself tapping into a new kind of magic as stunningly potent as it is frightening. Now Opal must deal with plotters out to destroy the Stormdancer clan, as well as a traitor in their midst. With danger and deception rising around her, will Opal's untested abilities destroy her - or save them all?
I loved Maria’s Study trilogy when I read it last year and have been waiting (impatiently) for the last book of this trilogy to be released so I could read all three books without waiting! Opal was featured in the Study series and events from that trilogy do cast a shadow over this story. Events and people are referenced without a detailed explanation which was perfect for me as I’d previously read those books and just needed a brief reminder. I’m not sure how much sense it would make if you haven’t read the study series – but that’s no great hardship as that trilogy is a fabulous read!
This story is about Opal growing into her powers and creating her own place within Sitia as her magic is different from anything seen before. There are some great new characters introduced including two very different suitors - both with their own issues as well - as some guest appearances from previous characters. However, Opal made the book for me. I adore her and the way she continued to struggle to overcome her past and learn from it. She doesn’t always make the right choices but she does learn from them. Opal grows up as the book progresses and becomes her own person.
There’s plenty of action as she faces various adventures all relating to the plot against the Stormdancer clan and an import of diamonds into Sitia. My one niggle is the rather abrupt ending. I know it’s a trilogy and I’ve got two more books to enjoy but even with some points wrapped up and other left open it seemed a quick ending to me. Still love Maria’s writing style and can’t wait to start Sea Glass, book 2 of Opal Cowan!
Recommended for fans of Karen Miller and Mercy Thompson. 8 out of 10.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

My Book Haul

I wasn't going to do one of these posts this week as Kirsty at Story Siren is taking a break until the new year. But somehow I've accumulated a load of books without actually spending a lot of money. So the week before Christmas I thought I'd put up my latest haul to celebrate just because. :)

Giveaway Wins:

My three new books that arrived in the post this week are ones I've won in various competitions.

This book I won as part of Book Chick City's All Hallows Event
Blood Oath - Christopher Farnsworth 
Nathaniel Cade, the president's vampire, swore to fight on the side of President Andrew Jackson and all his successors. In the present day, Zach Barrows, a rising political star caught canoodling with the president's daughter, suddenly finds himself training to be Cade's handler after tough, wise special agent William Griffin retires. As they try to stop Cade's old nemesis, Dr. Johann Konrad, from creating an army of Frankensteinian monster soldiers, they uncover a deeper government conspiracy.

Both the next two books are ones I won from the lovely Jackie at Literary Escapism
Sparks (Anya Kalinczyk 2) - Laura Bickles
Anya Kalinczyk is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern, who holds down a day job as an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department—while working 24/7 to exterminate malicious spirits haunting a city plagued by unemployment and despair. Along with her inseparable salamander familiar, Sparky, Anya has seen, and even survived, all manner of fiery hell—but her newest case sparks suspicions of a bizarre phenomenon that no one but her eccentric team of ghost hunters might believe: spontaneous human combustion.
After fire consumes the home of elderly Jasper Bernard, Anya is stunned to discover his remains—or, more precisely, a lack of them; even the fiercest fires leave some trace of their victims—and she is sure this was no naturally occurring blaze. Soon she’s unearthed a connection to a celebrity psychic who preys on Detroit’s poor, promising miracles for money. But Hope Solomon wants more—she’s collecting spirits, and in a frantic race against time, Anya will face down an evil adversary who threatens her fragile relationship with her lover, her beloved Sparky’s freshly hatched newts, and the wandering souls of the entire city

Afterlife - Merrie DeStanfano
Chaz Domingue works as a professional Babysitter in New Orleans. His job is to integrate and protect the recently deceased into their new and improved lives—a position he reluctantly accepted after his father was murdered. Though Fresh Start has always been the only game in town, resurrection isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Nine lives are all a person can get—and a powerful group of desperate, high-level Nine-Timers will stop at nothing to possess the keys to true immortality. Unfortunately, this places Chaz at the lethal center of a maelstrom.
Now the only hope for Chaz and his family—and the ultimate fate of the human race—is secretly locked away in the mind of Angelique, the beautiful, mysterious Newbie who’s been entrusted to Chaz’s care…

My grateful thanks to both sites for these books - I can't wait to start reading them!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

On My Wishlist #18

This is a meme from Book Chick City. There are so many books out there that I want to read that this is the only way I can keep track! There's a wolfie theme to my wishlist this week...

Masques - Patricia Briggs
Publisher: Ace Books (September 2010)
When the peaceful kingdom of Reth is overrun by Geofrrey ae'Magi, the evil master of illusion, Aralorn, weaponsmistress of the shapechanging race, and her companion, Wolf, attempt to overthrow him

While I've loved Briggs Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega series for a while, I've only recently discovered her traditional fantasy series. This is a reprint of her first ever book and I can't wait to start my way through her back catalogue

Kitty's Big Trouble (Kitty Norville 9) - Carrie Vaughn
Publisher: Gollancz (July 2011)
I know this book isn't due out for a while but I can't wait to see what trouble Kitty's getting into next! There's not much available about the story yet - just that it is set in San Francisco's China town.

Wolfsbane and Mistletoe - Edited by Charlaine Harris & Toni Kelner
Publisher: UK - Gollancz (November 2010)
We all know the holiday season can bring out the beast in anyone - but it's especially hard if you're a lycanthrope! Gathered here together is a veritable feast of fears and tears: fifteen of the scariest, saddest, funniest werewolf tales, by an outstanding pack of authors, best read by the light of the full moon, and with a silver bullet close at hand. In 'Gift Wrap', Sookie Stackhouse is feeling mighty sorry for herself, all alone for Christmas - until she meets someone with bigger problems than loneliness . . . Patricia Briggs gives us the story of lone wolf David Christiansen, who needs to mend fences with his daughter, before it's too late. In 'Christmas Past', Keri Arthur tells the tale of Hannah, who gets an unmerry and potentially life-threatening Christmas present when the hunky werewolf who dumped her last Christmas Eve turns up as her partner on the hunt for a vampire serial killer.

I know this book of short stories came out a while ago in the US but it's just been released in hardback in the UK and I really hope I'll find this in my stocking next week!

So that's what I'm wishing for - what would like this week? :)

Friday, 17 December 2010

Book Blogger Hop #12

 

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jennifer at Crazy for Books  and is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! I love taking part in the hop as I get to know more about other bloggers out there and to find a few new ones!

  

This week's question is -

 

What do you consider the most important in a story: the plot or the characters?

 

The best books have a combination of both - where the characters drive the plot and the plot informs the characters. Generally though if the plot is good enough I can forgive lack of characterisation lost in the details of the story and caught up in the world and action. However, if the plot doesn't make sense I find it hard to get lost in the characters and I tend to get bored quicker. But having both helps so much! :)

 

Which do you prefer?

 

 

 

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Tracking The Tempest Review

Tracking The Tempest (Jane True 2)
 - Nicole Peeler

Publisher: UK - Orbit

Jane True has almost come to terms with her supernatural heritage ...almost. Valentine's Day is fast approaching, and Ryu - Jane's bloodsucking boyfriend - can't let a major holiday go by without getting all gratuitous. An overwhelming dose of boyfriend interference and a last-minute ticket to Boston later, and Jane's life is thrown off course. Ryu's well-intentioned plans create mayhem, and Jane winds up embroiled in an investigation involving a spree of gruesome killings. All the evidence points towards another Halfling, much to Jane's surprise ...

This is a fun enjoyable romp around Boston in the company of the paranormal. Despite the book being filled with gnomes, shifters, kelpies and vampires the emphasis is very much on the normal. Our heroine, Jane True, has only recently learnt about the mystical side of her heritage (her mum is a selkie) but has embraced the world which has helped her find her confidence – and her boyfriend, Ryu. One of the things I love about Jane is that she is so unassuming. She cares about her friends and family – and about strangers she meets. She has an emotional vulnerability that is missing in a lot of heroines. Added to which she is very open about enjoying a physical relationship with Ryu but less certain about their future. I like how this made her seem more normal – no soul mate angst here!  

I really enjoyed the first Tempest book, Tempest Rising, but thought it was a little disjointed. This story doesn’t have that issue with the majority of the action based in Boston as Jane becomes embroiled on one of her boyfriends cases after a romantic weekend goes wrong. Jane quickly proves her worth as an investigator thinking outside of the normal magical arena that the rest of the characters rely on. I love the way that Jane has to continually fight to be allowed to peruse the case as her boyfriend is eager to protect her. She doesn’t have huge rows about it but firmly and persuasively argues her way into the investigation and contributes throughout. The story speeds along and I loved spending more time in Jane’s world. I laughed at times, I was gripped by the action and I was hooked by the political side of the story. I’m very much looking forward to Tempest Legacy out next year.

Recommended for fans of Patricia Briggs and Richelle Mead. 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Night of the Vampires Review

Night of the Vampires
-      Heather Graham
Ecopy curtsy of netgallery & Harlequin
As a soldier, Cole Granger fights to restore peace to a world divided by war and evil. His extraordinary talents are enlisted to prevent the president’s horrific premonition from becoming reality. Nothing—and no one—will stop him from fulfilling his duty. Especially the mysterious young woman who claims to be his comrade’s sister. Enemy or ally, he can’t yet determine. But one thing he knows for certain is that he must keep her close. Very close.
Megan Fox’s quest to uncover a family secret leads her to the center of vampire riots in West Virginia. To find the answers she needs—and clear herself of suspicion—she must join forces with Cole. They work undercover to bring justice, but they can’t disguise the potent attraction and need that draw them together. Yet trust doesn’t come easily for Cole…and when Megan unearths the grim, dark truth, can she trust him to believe her?
I’ve read few other Heather Graham books in the past but I don’t remember enjoying them as much I did Night of the Vampires! It became obvious early on that this is a sequel with characters referencing earlier events that I wasn’t aware off. This didn’t really impact the story too much, but might help expanding some of the secondary characters as the action is very much focused on Cole and Megan.
I didn’t realise at first that this was a historical fiction – set around the time of the American Civil War, and era I only have vague awareness of. While I can’t vouch for the historical accuracy of the events, it felt real to me and I loved the idea of a second war that both sides have to fight occurring behind the scenes of the major battles. Despite the historical setting the hero and heroine are very modern people who are equals and learning to trust each other despite their differences. The romance is believable and develops well – I want my own Texas sheriff to come home to! There is plenty of action throughout and a twist that while guessable was still enjoyable.
It may not the best story of all time but I had great fun without having to think too much – you get exactly what it says on the cover! I’m going to have to look out for some more Heather Graham as a pleasant way of spending a few hours.
Recommended for fans of Tales of the Sazi. 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The Gift Review

The Gift
-      Cecelia Ahern
Publisher: UK – Harper
Lou Suffern is practised in the art of concealment. He is, also, always overstretched, trying to do too many things at once. His overburdened schedule gives him few moments of peace, even in his sleep. And when he spends time at home with his wife and family, he is always distracted, and, mentally, somewhere else. On a cold winter morning, Lou is on his way to work when he encounters Gabe, a homeless street dweller, sitting outside an office building. Lou is intrigued by him, and contrives to get him a job in the post room. But this act of charity rebounds on him, and Gabe’s presence begins to grate on Lou -- particularly when he discovers that the latter seems capable of being in two places at the same time. Christmas is drawing near, and before the season is over, Lou’s life will be irrevocably change by the casual act of kindness he has performed.

There seems to be an increased number of seasonal books this year with every other chick-lit book titled Coming home for Christmas or A Christmas romance. The Gift is probably the book that started it in the UK a couple of years ago. This was a present I received last year but I wanted to read it in the run up to Christmas so I picked it up during my snowdays last week. It’s the perfect type of book to read curled up indoors while there is snow falling outside and everything is white beyond your front door.
Cecelia Ahren has a habit of taking standard chick-lit tropes and giving them a slight supernatural bent. This story involves the saving of one man’s soul in the run up to Christmas after he decides to take pity on the homeless guy sitting outside his office. There is plenty of introspection in this story – working hard for your family verses spending time with them and realising what you miss out on when you don’t pay attention to the here and now. It reads like It’s A Wonderful Life in 21st Century Ireland. I will hold my hand up and admit that I was in tears by the end – it’s a great Christmas family book. Easy to read and ultimately feel good this is a great story about learning to appreciate what you have.
Recommended for fans of Sophie Kinsella and Jill Mansell. 8 out of 10.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Storm Warning Review

Storm Warning
-      Toni Anderson
Free Copy courtesy of Carina Press & Netgallery. Kindle Book
Sorcha Logan is looking for peace.
Recently returned to her hometown on Scotland's craggy coast, Sorcha wants to tame the spirits that made her flee. When she finds a corpse in the surf, however, she can't suppress the memory of discovering her father's body. Nor can she suppress the ghosts that haunt her-or the town's conviction that she's dangerous, and a witch.  
Ben Foley is looking for a killer.
An American DEA agent, Ben is in town to investigate the suspicious death of his partner. He's sure that Sorcha knows more than she's letting on-but the more time he spends with the sexy suspect, the less he can fight their illicit attraction. And the less certain he is she's involved with a drug cartel.
But can Ben protect Sorcha from being set up? Or worse-killed?
There were things I liked about this book and things I didn’t. I liked the way Ben continues to worry about his lost partner and how falling for main suspect would impact his career. I didn’t like that he seemed so focussed Sorcha as the main suspect he didn’t really think about anyone else – even though she had only arrived back in Scotland two months earlier. I liked the progression of the relationship between the two leads – the off-again parts seemed natural and not forced – there was real attraction there. And I loved the way Sorcha was able to make the first move. I didn’t like how little the other characters are developed though – they seemed little more than cardboard cutouts.
The story doesn’t focus heavily on the supernatural side – it feels a little tacked as a reason for the heroine to be isolated in the village – do people still believe enough in witches to burn them? In fact the supernatural side seems to hold back the romance some and to me made the story seem a little old fashioned. However, the action and twists kept me reading and the finale at sea in a storm was beautifully described – I couldn’t help but picture it all and root for Sorcha and Ben.
While I moderately enjoyed the book, I don’t think it will be one I will remember well in a few months time.
Recommended for fans of Heather Graham. 6 out of 10.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

My Book Haul/In My Mailbox

The Story Siren hosts a weekly meme where bloggers can share what goodies they've purchased/received this week. If you get a chance head over to The Story Siren and check out what everyone is up to!
This week I've been distracted by Christmas shopping so I've only picked up a couple of books both free from netgalley.
The Sevenfold Spell - Tia Nevitt
Publisher: Carina Press (e-book format) September 2010
Have you ever wondered what happens to the other people in the fairy tale?
Things look grim for Talia and her mother. By royal proclamation, the constables and those annoying “good” fairies have taken away their livelihood by confiscating their spinning wheel. Something to do with a curse on the princess, they said.
Not every young lady has a fairy godmother rushing to her rescue.
Without the promise of an income from spinning, Talia’s prospects for marriage disappear, and she and her mother face destitution. Past caring about breaking an arbitrary and cruel law, rebellious Talia determines to build a new spinning wheel, the only one in the nation, which plays right into the evil fairy’s diabolical plan. Talia discovers that finding a happy ending requires sacrifice. But is it a sacrifice she’s willing to make?
I received this from netgallery for review but it's been on my wishlist for a while so I can't wait to start reading this!
A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
Kindle Book
Does anyone not know the story? Just in case...
Ebenezer Scrooge is a mean, miserable, bitter old man with no friends. One cold Christmas Eve, three ghosts take him on a scary journey to show him the error of his nasty ways. By visiting his past, present and future, Scrooge learns to love Christmas and the people all around him.
I've been challenged to throw some classics into the mix so thought I'd start a little early than January with A Christmas Carol. I've never read it but it's never Christmas without watching at least one film version each year (preferably the Muppets version!). So, this will the next book I read so I can get the review up before the big day. And as an added bonus the kindle version is free!

The Iron Duke - Meljean Brook
Publisher: US - Berkley
After the Iron Duke freed England from Horde control, he instantly became a national hero. Now Rhys Trahaearn has built a merchant empire on the power -and fear - of his name. And when a dead body is dropped from an airship onto his doorstep, bringing Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth into his dangerous world, he intends to make her his next possession. But when Mina uncovers the victim's identity, she stumbles upon a conspiracy that threatens the lives of everyone in England.

This was a surprise gift this week from one of my lovely friends as a late birthday present. I love that my friends know what type of book I will love! :)
What have you picked up this week? :)

Saturday, 11 December 2010

On My Wishlist #17

This is a meme from Book Chick City. There are so many books out there that I want to read that this is the only way I can keep track!

This week the books I'm wishing for are all YA...

Gone - Michael Grant
Publisher: UK - Egmont Books (September 2009)
Suddenly there are no adults, no answers. What would you do? In the blink of an eye, the world changes. The adults vanish without a trace, and those left must do all they can to survive. But everyone's idea of survival is different. Some look after themselves, some look after others, and some will do anything for power...Even kill. For Sam and Astrid, it is a race against time as they try to solve the questions that now dominate their lives...What is the mysterious wall that has encircled the town of Perdido Beach and trapped everyone within? Why have some kids developed strange powers? And can they defeat Caine and his gang of bullies before they turn fifteen and disappear too? It isn't until the world collapses around you that you find out what kind of person you really are.

A friend of mine has recommended this book and after reading the blurb, I'm desperate to give it a go myself - it sounds wonderfully spooky and intriguing!

Vampire Academy 4: Shadow Kiss - Richelle Mead
Publisher: UK - Penguin (February 2010)
It's springtime at St. Vladimir's Academy and Rose is close to graduation, but since making her first Strigoi kills, things haven't felt quite right. She's having dark thoughts, behaving erratically, and worst of all . . . might be seeing ghosts. Consumed by her forbidden love with her tutor Dimitri and protecting her best friend, the Moroi princess Lissa, Rose is in no state to see the deadly threat that will change her entire world - and make her choose between the two people she loves most. 

Having fallen in love with this series I'm now desperate to own all the books - I have Frostbitten so this is very high on my Must-Buy list!

My Soul To Take (Soul Screamers 1) - Rachel Vincent
Publisher: UK - Mira (January 2011)
Being a teenager just got much more complicated. There is something very wrong with Kaylee Cavanaugh: she senses when someone near her is about to die. And when that happens, a force beyond her control compels her to scream bloody murder. Literally. Kaylee just wants to enjoy having caught the attention of the hottest guy in school. But a normal date is hard to come by when Nash seems to know more about the need to scream than she does. And when classmates start dropping dead for no apparent reason, only Kaylee knows who'll be next.

I love Rachel Vincents Shifter series so I'm looking forward to trying her YA series when it's published here in the UK next month!

So that's what I'm after this week, what are you wishing for? :)


Friday, 10 December 2010

Book Blogger Hop #11

 

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jennifer at Crazy for Books  and is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! I love taking part in the hop as I get to know more about other bloggers out there and to find a few new ones!

  

This week's question is –

What is the thing you like most about reading book blogs?  Is it the reviews, author guest posts, articles, giveaways, or something else entirely?

I love discovering new books most of all. Finding books I didn’t know about or that my local stores don’t stock and discovering a new series or author that interests me. Sometimes this is through reviews, author posts, giveaways and even memes. I love reading other people’s reviews and they do influence me but I’m always aware I’m not going to agree with everyone. Giveaways are great – after all who doesn’t love a free book? But I’m always careful to only enter giveaways for books I’m genuinely interested in – after if I do win I want to read it and not just have it sitting on a shelf. That’s not really fair on the people who really do want to win it! I love humour and passion in people’s blogs – that tends to be what makes me follow them – after all I blog because I love books and want to meet other people who feel the same way!

So what do you like most about reading book blogs?