Saturday, 31 August 2013

Mel's Random August

August is usually a reasonably quiet month for me but this year there was plenty going on with work, friends and preparing for holiday. As you read this I will be in Toronto taking my first two week holiday in over five years... it's been a very long couple of years and I really need some time to recharge and get my head together. Plus I get to see family and enjoy a different country with plenty of new shops!

So while I don't have any recent pictures to share this month, but I thought you would like to see a little island temple in Egypt that I visited a few years ago...





Books
Love In Revolution - B.R. Collins (British Books Challenge)
Mr Lynch's Holiday - Catherine O'Flynn (British Books Challenge
I've Got Your Number - Sophie Kinsella (British Books Challenge)
Seraphina - Rachel Hartman
XO - Jeffery Deaver

Ebooks
The Bone Season - Samantha Shannon (British Books Challenge)

Sarah's Review

Other Posts
Same Books/Different Cover - Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
Author Interview: Jon Robinson, Nowhere

So updating the challenges -
British Books Challenge - 29 Read - half way to my personal target of 50 books by British Authors!


Best of the Bunch: Crown of Midnight was fantastic - I've missed strong YA Fantasy and this definitely fills that hole!


Honorable Mentions: Magic Rises - this is one of the best Urban Fantasy series there is! I've Got Your Number was pure fun as well! Seraphina was definitely worth reading as well!


So what was your month like? :

Friday, 30 August 2013

My Holiday TBR Pile #2

Even as you read this I will be taking to the air (barring any delays!) and heading across the pond to Toronto for 10 days! I'm visiting family mostly but I am looking forward to a nice long break away from work. I haven't had two weeks away from work for over 5 years so I figure I deserve it now especially after the stressful recent year!

However, even though most of my holiday will be spent with family and sightseeing, I am hoping to squeeze in a few books. As ever I will be taking my kindle so I'll have a choice of books to read...but these are the ones that are top of my mental TBR pile for Canada...


Stone Maiden - Ann Aguirre
I love Ann's UF series staring Corine Solomon so I'm hoping this early fantasy story will be as intriguing and interesting. I certainly haven't heard much about it from elsewhere but I trust Ann's writing!

666 Park Avenue - Gabriella Pierce
I know a TV series was made based on the books but was cancelled quickly. I've never seen it, but the books look like quite short reads with a bit of paranormal thrown in so I'm up for trying it!

Boneshaker – Cherie Priest
I meant to read this in Portugal earlier in the year but never quite got around to it. Still Steampunk has been missing from the blog for a while so I think it's time to re-introduce it!

Devil's Consort - Anne O'Brien
I like historical fiction and the recent BBC drama series The White Queen has ignited a need for some historical reading! Okay, this is a different time period from the White Queen but I think it will be a intriguing read!

Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Another modern classic I seem to avoided so far - but to be honest until I saw clips for the film it never appealed to me!


So that's what I'm planning on reading - however, who knows what my mood will mean I'll end up reading - if in fact I do much reading at all! What books would you guys recommend for a city break adventure..?

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Throwback Thursdays #96 - Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs


This is a great feature that Melissa at My World...in words and pictures has been doing for a while which looks at those wonderful books that are ALREADY on my shelves that we haven't got round to reading yet.

Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs - Molly Harper
Publisher: Pocket Star
Maybe it was the Shenanigans gift certificate that put her over the edge. When children's librarian and self-professed nice girl Jane Jameson is fired by her beastly boss and handed twenty-five dollars in potato skins instead of a severance check, she goes on a bender that's sure to become Half Moon Hollow legend. On her way home, she's mistaken for a deer, shot, and left for dead. And thanks to the mysterious stranger she met while chugging neon-colored cocktails, she wakes up with a decidedly unladylike thirst for blood.Jane is now the latest recipient of a gift basket from the Newly Undead Welcoming Committee, and her life-after-lifestyle is taking some getting used to. Her recently deceased favorite aunt is now her ghostly roommate. She has to fake breathing and endure daytime hours to avoid coming out of the coffin to her family. She's forced to forgo her favorite down-home Southern cooking for bags of O negative. Her relationship with her sexy, mercurial vampire sire keeps running hot and cold. And if all that wasn't enough, it looks like someone in Half Moon Hollow is trying to frame her for a series of vampire murders. What's a nice undead girl to do?

This is the fourth and final Paranormal Book this month which has been sitting on my shelves gaining a deep layer of dust! I picked this up after reading a certain Mel rave about it and never actually opened it. It sounds like a lot of fun though - I like romances that are fun as well as hot!

Next week you guys get to decide which PR I should read so get your thinking caps on...if you can find them! 

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

XO (Kathryn Dance #3) Review

XO (Kathryn Dance #3)
Jeffery Deaver

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Kayleigh Towne is a beautiful and successful singer-songwriter, and Edwin Sharp is her biggest fan. When she replies to one of his fan letters with 'XO', Edwin is convinced she loves him, and that her latest hit song 'Your Shadow' was written for him. Nothing Kayleigh or her lawyers can say persuades him otherwise. Then the singer gets an anonymous phone call; it's the first verse of 'Your Shadow' playing. Soon after, one of the crew is horribly murdered. Kayleigh's friend Kathryn Dance, a special agent with the California Bureau of Investigation, knows that stalking crimes are not one-off occurrences, and, sure enough, more verses of the song are played as warnings of death to follow. With a little help from forensic criminalist Lincolyn Rhyme, Dance must use her kinesic and investigative skills in an attempt to find the killer before more people die. 

This month I’ve really been bouncing around between genres with chick-lit, teen, fantasy and literature all taking some time alongside my usually UF reads. This is my crime novel for the month and I have to confess I like Jeffery Deaver’s books a lot. To my mind he invented CSI with Lincoln Rhyme years before Grissom entered the room. This is the third book with Kathryn Dance as the main investigator and Kathryn rather than a forensic expert is a kinesics expert – she can read body language and what people say to see if they are lying or telling the truth.

This time Kathryn is taking a few days off from work and meeting up an old friend, famous country singer, Kayleigh Sharp. However, Kayleigh has problems in the form of a stalker and when one of her road crew and an ex is killed, it looks like Kathryn’s vacation may turn into a bit of a working holiday...

Kathryn ends up working with the local police force in order to figure out what her stalker will do next. I really enjoyed the initial confrontations between the local cops and Kathryn – there are some amusing power plays and the differences in the type of investigation each would run. Kathryn’s interrogations are intriguing to read and you don’t know until after what she got out of the Q&A session which adds extra tension. There are plenty of twists and turns here as red herrings and suspicious character abound.

There are a couple of deceptive endings – where it seems as if the case has been wrapped up but the number of pages left to go suggest otherwise – and made the twist seem less of a surprise. However, this was a fun read with plenty to get you thinking and attempting to work it out yourself. I would love to see these in a film – it feels quite cinematic at times with the local area and locations well described and given character of their own. Added to which are some ongoing issues of Kathryn’s personal life and there is a nice balance between character and plot which many books miss. I really enjoyed the whole journey and still think Jeffery Deaver is one step ahead of many in this genre!


Recommended for fans of Patricia Cornwall and James Patterson. 8 out of 10 

Monday, 26 August 2013

Seraphina Review

Seraphina
Rachel Hartman

Publisher: Corgi

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high. Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

Seraphina is a talented musician at the royal court, but she has a secret that should never be told – her mother was a dragon. Growing tensions between humans and dragons mean she gets caught up in political issues, especially when the royal prince is murdered and all suspicions point to dragons as the culprit. Did dragons kill him? Will the peace last? And what if it doesn’t...?

Seraphina is a fantastic character – self-contained by necessity, but brave and smart. She understands both sides of the conflict but is hidden from both. Her growing friendship with the second heir, Princess Glisselda is fun and yet very serious as Seraphina almost incidentally starts to show her how to be more open to other ideas. Prince Lucien is a intriguing character and the relationship between the two of them is realistic and filled with difficulties. And then there are the dragons...  

Typically shapeshifting dragons are portrayed as humans with temper issues (okay – I’m grossly generalising but you get the idea). What I loved about Seraphina was the portrayal of the dragons as a truly alien species – with emotions thought to be common and unworthy of them. However, when in human form they struggle with understanding heir new bodies and the thoughts and feelings this brings. It asks some interesting questions about how much our bodies shape our thoughts and actions verses how much is our minds and spirits.

In total this is a complex and layered story with a history and (hopefully!) a future that will entertain and amuse. There is a murder mystery, complicated political tensions, dragon fights, music, family secrets and dysfunction with just a slight scent of romance. I was pulled in from the beginning and the story never goes for easy or simple making this one of the best YA fantasy offerings out there! Highly recommended!


Recommended for fans of Sarah J Maas & Rae Carson. 9 out of 10 

Sunday, 25 August 2013

My Book Haul / Showcase Sunday

This is Books, Biscuits and Tea's Showcase Sunday where I share my lovely book hauls each week. Have a look back at Vicki's link up to see what everyone is up too!

Less than a week now until I head for Canada for a couple of weeks. I'm desperately trying to put together enough interesting reviews and posts to keep you all going once I jet off - its exhausting! So this week I read XO by Jeffery Deaver - an entertaining crime novel with plenty of twists and turns, then I raced through Kitty In The Underworld by Carrie Vaughn and finally I enjoyed The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond.

It was a bit of a bumper week this week with a big giveaway win which had me dancing around the room! Plus a couple of request were accepted on Netgalley so I didn't do too badly this week!

For Review

Resist (Breathe #2) - Sarah Crossan
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Resistance to the Pod Leadership has come apart. The Grove has been destroyed but so has the Pod Minister. Quinn, Bea and Alina separately must embark on a perilous journey across the planet's dead landscape in search of the rumoured resistance base Sequoia. Meanwhile the Pod Minister has been succeeded by his capricious daughter. Her brother, Ronan, is supposed to advise her, but his doubts about the regime lead to him being sent out of the Pod in search of Quinn. In a world in which the human race is adapting to survive with little air, the stakes are high.

I loved Breathe last year so I am intrigued to see where this sequel will take the story!

Dying Is My Business - Nicholas Kaufmann
Publisher: St Martins
Given his line of work in the employ of a psychotic Brooklyn crime boss, Trent finds himself on the wrong end of too many bullets. Yet each time he’s killed, he wakes a few minutes later completely healed of his wounds but with no memory of his past identity. What’s worse, each time he cheats death someone else dies in his place. Sent to steal an antique box from some squatters in an abandoned warehouse near the West Side Highway, Trent soon finds himself stumbling into an age-old struggle between the forces of good and evil, revealing a secret world where dangerous magic turns people into inhuman monstrosities, where impossible creatures hide in plain sight, and where the line between the living and the dead is never quite clear. And when the mysterious box is opened, he discovers he has only twenty-four hours to save New York City from certain destruction.

I requested this as it looked like a cool Urban Fantasy - good vs. evil, a hero with shades of grey, New York - lets hope it is as good as it sounds!

Won

Exit Kingdom - Aiden Bell
Publisher: Tor
In a world where the undead outnumber the living, Moses Todd roams the post-apocalyptic plains of America. His reprobate brother, Abraham — his only companion — has known little else. Together, they journey because they have to; because they have nowhere to go, and no one to answer to other than themselves. 
Traveling the bloody wastelands of this ruined world, Moses is looking for a kernel of truth, and a reason to keep going. And a chance encounter presents him with the Vestal Amata, a beguiling and mysterious woman who may hold the key to salvation. But he is not the only one seeking the Vestal. For the Vestal has a gift: a gift that might help save what is left of humanity. And it may take everything he has to free her from the clutches of those who most desire her

I won this from the wonderful Tor Blog (go have a look as they have some great posts!). I like zombie books although I haven't read one for a while. Still it's not long until October and I might try some seasonal reading then! 

I was also lucky enough to win the British Book Challenge prize pack for July from Sarah over at Feeling Fictional and it was a MEGA pack. I'm not going to put in the summary for each one as it would this post as long as the Eiffel Tower is tall! Is it any wonder I was dancing when the box arrived! The books are...
Burn Mark by Laura Powell
Witch Fire by Laura Powell
The Disgrace of Kitty Grey by Mary Hooper
Breathing Underwater by Julia Green
Drawing with Light by Julia Green
Bringing the Summer by Julia Green
This Northern Sky by Julia Green
Winter Damage by Natasha Carthew
Dead Time by Anne Cassidy
Killing Rachel by Anne Cassidy
Anthem for Jackson Dawes by Celia Bryce
Hostage 3 by Nick Lake
In Darkness by Nick Lake
The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan
Breathe by Sarah Crossan
The Wall by William Sutcliffe

So what have you picked up this week...?


Friday, 23 August 2013

Guest Review: Grave Mercy

My cinema buddy, Sarah has popped again to share her thoughts on ninja assassin nuns...and if that doesn't intrigue you, nothing will!

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1)
Robin LaFevers

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others. 
Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?


Whilst I love my current office job, it has seriously impinged on my reading levels in the last 18 months.  Previously, I would get through a book in around 3 days.  Now?  Only one every 6 days.  This means that I am not as much help to Mel when it comes to doing reviews as I used to be, although it does mean that I try my very best to only read books I think I’m really going to enjoy, rather than a lot of ‘oh, I’ll give it a go’ books.  I thought that Grave Mercy looked a book right up my street – thankfully, I was right. 
The premise is not a vastly original one – one character has a horrid childhood, is saved by a seemingly well-meaning group who train them in their field of expertise (in this case, assassination), said character is sent out to dispatch a mark, and instead sparks fly.  However, when the horrid childhood is brought about by a failed attempt at abortion, the well-meaning group is a convent for the training of assassin nuns, and the intended mark is the bastard half-brother to the ruling Duchess it all becomes rather more than un-original!
Our heroine is Ismae, our hero Duval, and, unlike in many fantasy novel romances, both are strong-willed, untrusting and capable of playing the game whilst notching a crossbow.  It was also a very pleasant change to read about two people falling in love with the other’s personality, not their physical appearance.  At no point is either character described as beautiful/handsome/striking/lovely etc etc, instead they both appear to be, well, normal!  On a good day, they scrub up well, on a bad day, they don’t.  A very satisfying novel for us average-lookers! 
Despite doing History A-Level, my knowledge of French history is extremely limited, so I have to admit to having no idea whether or not the events portrayed in Grave Mercy are accurate.  This does mean, however, that I could enjoy the political machinations as they were described, and without bias.  Add to this an alternative take on the subject of Gods that leaves many a question unanswered and many an avenue to be explored, and I am gagging to get my hands on book two in the series.
In short, if you like your romances realistic, your fantasy historical, and your nuns to be assassins, then I defy you to not enjoy Grave Mercy.  One for fans of Naomi Novik and Maria Snyder, 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Throwback Thursdays #95 - Sleeping With The Fishes

This is a great feature that Melissa at My World...in words and pictures has been doing for a while which looks at those wonderful books that are ALREADY on my shelves that we haven't got round to reading yet..

Sleeping With The Fishes - MaryJanice Davidson
Publisher: Piatkus
Fred is not your ordinary mermaid. She's not blonde. She's not buxom. And she's definitely not perky. In fact, Fred can be downright cranky. And it doesn't help matters that her hair is blue. 
While volunteering at the New England Aquarium, Fred learns that there are weird levels of toxins in the local seawater. A gorgeous marine biologist wants her help investigating. So does her merperson ruler, the High Prince of the Black Sea. You'd think it would be easy for a mermaid to get to the bottom of things. Think again.

Continuing my Paranormal Romance theme this month on Thursday is Sleeping With The Fishes. I've had mixed thoughts about mermaids in the past and I have to confess I got a little bored with the Queen Betsy Undead series also by MaryJanice Davidson but I remain hopeful that this new series with tick all the right boxes for mermaids and some romance!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

I've Got Your Number Review

I’ve Got Your Number
Sophie Kinsella

Publisher: Black Swan

I've lost it. :( The only thing in the world I wasn't supposed to lose. My engagement ring. It's been in Magnus's family for three generations. And now, the very same day his parents are coming, I've lost it. The very same day. Do not hyperventilate, Poppy. Stay positive!! :)

A couple of glasses of bubbly with the girls at a charity do and Poppy's life has gone into meltdown. Not only has she lost her engagement ring, but in the panic that followed, she's lost her phone too. As she paces shakily round the hotel foyer she spots an abandoned phone in a bin. Finders keepers! Now she can leave a number with the hotel staff. It was meant to be! Except the phone's owner, businessman Sam Roxton, doesn't agree. He wants his phone back, and doesn't appreciate Poppy reading all his messages and wading into his personal life. As Poppy juggles wedding preparations, phone messages and hiding her left hand from Magnus and his parents, can things get any more tangled?

The sun is shining, I’m in short sleeves and I really don’t feel like reading a dark story about the end of the world or creatures who only come out at night, so what do I reach for...? Sophie Kinsella for some bright light reading, with plenty of humour, fun characters and some unique situations. On every level this book delivers warmth, entertainment and some sweet relationships.

Poppy is in the final weeks before her wedding and while she feels a little intimidated by her fiancés family she is looking forward to the big day. However, losing her engagement ring – a family inheritance and her phone on the same day is not what she had planned. Then she finds a phone in a bin and becomes involved in owners life. From the opening conversation between Poppy and Sam on the found phone there is a real chemistry and connection between them – after all how likely are you to stop a Japanese businessman leave a hotel by singing his name in the style of Beyonce for a stranger?

I loved that the phone complete with emails and texts is the main connection between them – these days a lot of friendships and romance rely heavily on this type of communication and so many modern romances overlook this everyday method of communicating. Poppy’s relationships with her soon to be in-laws, her work friends and now with Sam are all believable – and if some of the situations lean heavily towards extreme they still amuse. There were several occasions when I laughed out loud (receiving some bemused looks on the train!) and I was urging Poppy on throughout. Occasionally in Chick-Lit I find the main heroine a little wet or annoyingly stupid but Poppy was actually quite capable and emotionally confused. She was someone you wanted to do well.

This is the perfect summer read – easy, fun and with a fabulous leading lady and a commanding guy. This helped me pass a couple of days journey to work quickly and with much amusement!


Recommended for fans of Jenny Colgan and Jane Green. 8.5 out of 10 

Monday, 19 August 2013

Early Review: The Bone Season

The Bone Season
Samantha Shannon

Publisher: Bloomsbury - Released 20th August 2013

E-Arc Courtesy of Netgalley & Bloomsbury

It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing. But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army. Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.

Set in the near future, but in a world which diverged from ours two hundred years ago, The Bone Season has its work cut out introducing us to a world and society very different from what we know. However Samantha Shannon succeeds brilliantly by introducing us, not only to one new world, but to many via a multi-layered complex society with secrets and prejudices. The world building is strong and could withstand an earthquake! Scion hold cities in their grip, terrified of those among the population who can read minds, communicate with ghosts and use the dead as weapons. Paige is one of these voyants, working for a criminal mime-lord in central London when she is captured by the Scion and sent to the former city of Oxford where she discovers that there is more to voyants and Scions hatred of them than she ever knew.

Paige is a great heroine – tenacious, determined but smart and slightly on the defensive side as she has had to hide what she is all her life, even from family. She resolves to escape Oxford however she can but there are multiple threads around her with many people working on their own agendas – who can she trust? Other voyants are self serving and her Keeper, Warden is distant and unsympathic.

I admit I was a little wary when I first started The Bone Season as I thought it was going to be like multiple other YA stories with simple characters and a straight forward right verses wrong story. I was so happy to be proved wrong! The characters are all three dimensional with their own prejudices. The Rephiam, far from being slightly different types of human are unique, with their motivations mysterious. They feel different and like Paige, you are never sure what they are up to or what they want. Paige’s reaction and relationships are well explored and you do feel that she is a good person in an impossible situation. However, I have to admit that the timing of the story felt a little off to me – I felt that only a couple of weeks had passed for Paige wince she was captured but it turned out to be months.Manybe I was just reading too fast! J
My real joy in reading The Bone Season was the complexity of the plot which varied and twisted back on itself. There is some truly horrific violence. While the story started here is complete with a satisfying conclusion there are plenty of questions and mysteries still outstanding not least is how Paige has changed after her experiences. I will be looking forward to seeing how the rest of this wider arc plays out!


Recommended for fans of Deborah Harkness and Isobelle Carmody. 8 out of 10

Sunday, 18 August 2013

My Book Haul / Showcase Sunday

This is Books, Biscuits and Tea's Showcase Sunday where I share my lovely book hauls each week. Have a look back at Vicki's link up to see what everyone is up too!

This was another good week reading wise - I finished A Night On The Orient Express by Veronica Henry which has really given me the urge to journey to Venice! The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon was a wonderfully complex story while Seraphina by Rachel Hartman was a wonderful take on Dragon mythology! 

I thought I wouldn't have anything to report this week as I didn't receive any books in the post but then I met up with a good friend yesterday and together we managed to explore a lot of book stores in London and I couldn't leave without picking up one or two! :-)

Bought

Half Sick of Shadows - David Logan
Publisher: Corgi
On the eve of Granny Hazel's burial in the back garden a stranger in his time machine visits five year old Edward with a strange request. And Edward agrees to be his friend.
Edward is not alone in the world. His twin sister, Sophia, is about to bring future tragedy upon herself by misunderstanding a promise she will make to their father.
While Sophia stays at home in The Manse, Edward is sent to boarding school. There he encounters the kind and the not so kind and befriends the strangest child, Alf – whose very existence hints at universes of unlimited possibilities ... and who one day might help Edward free Sophia.

I've been after this since it won the first Terry Prachett prize last year and now the paperback copy is out I get to indulge my love of time travel stories!

Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman
Publisher: Headline
Under the streets of London there's a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.
Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: neverwhere.

This book has also been on my must-read list for ages - and I finally gave in and bought a copy! Now I just need to find time to read it...

So what have you been up to this week...?

Friday, 16 August 2013

Guest Review: American Gods

Sometimes it takes a while but when either Sarah, my regular guest reviewer or I like a book we try and persuade the other to read it. Having read and loved American Gods in 2011 (read my review here), Sarah has finally got around to it!

American Gods
Neil Gaiman

Publisher: Headline

Days before his release from prison, Shadow's wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America. Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break.

Mel reviewed this weighty tome back in 2011, so it shows just how far behind the times I am!  I am most definitely a Neil Gaiman fan, although as I prefer him in ‘straight-up’ fantasy mode, I was a little hesitant about reading one of his more surreal urban fantasy books, especially one as large as this (thank god for the Kindle!).  And speaking of gods/Gods…. 
What happens to the Gods of old? Just because we no longer believe in them, does that mean that no one else does?  Once a God is no longer worshipped, do they still qualify for the title, or do they simply cease? 
Our hero Shadow, an ex-con displaying a wealth of kindness, and the ability to articulate wonderfully exactly what he (and the reader) is thinking at the most perplexing moments, is presented with the physical embodiment of all these questions, and is expected to accept and move on.  His post-prison employer, known by the moniker Mr Wednesday, is a shadowy trickster with more linguistic tricks than a mensa tongue-twister, but the question is, is he a god, or a God?
I have to admit, that this novel was a bit too surreal for my tastes, but it will be up many people’s curvy street (Mel for one!).  If it hadn’t have been for Gaiman’s sublime grasp of storytelling, and his ridiculously likeable hero, I might have had to bail out early.  However, I was in it to the end, which earns this (one for fans of China Mieville) an 8 out of 10 

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Throwback Thursdays #94 - A Quick Bite


This is a great feature that Melissa at My World...in words and pictures has been doing for a while which looks at those wonderful books that are ALREADY on my shelves that we haven't got round to reading yet..

A Quick Bite - Lynday Sands
Publisher: Avon
Lissianna has been spending her centuries pining for Mr. Right, not just a quick snack, and this sexy guy she finds in her bed looks like he might be a candidate. But there's another, more pressing issue: her tendency to faint at the sight of blood . . . an especially annoying quirk for a vampire. Of course it doesn't hurt that this man has a delicious-looking neck. What kind of cold-blooded vampire woman could resist a bite of that? 
Dr. Gregory Hewitt recovers from the shock of waking up in a stranger's bedroom pretty quickly—once he sees a gorgeous woman about to treat him to a wild night of passion. But is it possible for the good doctor to find true love with a vampire vixen, or will he be just a good meal? That's a question Dr. Greg might be willing to sink his teeth into . . . if he can just get Lissianna to bite

Continuing my Paranormal Romance month is A Quick Bite. This is the first in a rather long series  but I actually like the idea that the vampire this time is the girl while the ordinary one is the man! Has anyone read this series...? I never read any reviews of the series...

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Agave Kiss (Corine Solomon #5) Review

Agave Kiss (Corrine Solomon #5)
Ann Aguirre

Publisher: Roc Fantasy

Chance was gone; he’d sacrificed himself so Shannon and I could escape Sheol. We’d raised him on Shan’s spirit radio, which meant his soul wasn’t wholly destroyed by the demon gate….Once Corine Solomon only had the touch—the ability to read an object’s past by handling it. Then she inherited her mother’s magick, and that ended up being a hell of a burden. But if Corine can wrestle a demon queen and win, she can bring back her lover Chance after he’s made the ultimate sacrifice. Can’t she? All Corine knows is that she can’t leave Chance behind if there’s anything she can do about it. But the clock is ticking—and she still has to deal with debt-collecting demons and a maniacal archangel who’s running a recruitment drive. The stakes have never been so high…and this time it’s truly Corine’s last chance to save the love of her life

Corine Solomon has returned from the demon world with her best friend Shannon, but without Chance, the man she loves. Instead of mourning she resolves to get him back, but others are also asking for her help, including Book, the occult specialist who has helped her out in the past.

This is the final book in the Corine Solomon series and from the start there is a feeling that a lot needs to be resolved and wrapped up. It almost reads like multiply short stories visiting various characters to have their stories wound up as every character Corine has met in the last four books are seen or referenced. Some of the most interesting ideas seem to be changed suddenly such as Corine’s ‘destiny’ and the idea of angels fighting demons. However, at the same time it all feels very realistic and part of Corine’s world which has always included Mexican drug cartels as well as demons.

Corine is determined and knows what she wants now. This is the first time in the whole series that Corine has been sure of what she wants and she doesn’t let anything get in her way. She has friends who help her including the feisty Shannon (please can we have a series with her and Jesse as the main couple!), occult specialist Book, Chuch and Eva and the Nephilim, Kel. It was a nice ending for a high quality UF series, but it felt like a happy ending given rather than earned. But that’s like saying someone gave you a free chocolate bar rather than having to go to the shops for one. Still tasty but without the sacrifice of going out!

Overall, this is a great series with some truly memorable characters. I don’t think this series gets enough coverage so I’m saying now if you would like to try some Urban Fantasy without vampires, werewolves but with plenty of human characters, tricky situations and shades of grey then pick up book one, Blue Diablo and enjoy!


Recommended for fans of Kelley Armstrong and Jaye Wells. 8 out of 10

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Author Interview: Jon Robinson, Author of Nowhere

Today I have a special treat for you guys. I managed to find and ensnare, YA Author Jon Robinson, author of the fabulous NOWHERE and grilled him for your entertainment! Enjoy!

Welcome to Mel’s Random Reviews! Let’s jump into the interrogation interview -

Jon Robinson, a "ridiculous human being" & Author
First tell us a little about yourself and when you knew you wanted to write...
It’s always a little tricky to introduce yourself without it sounding like a personals ad isn’t it? I’m 29, born and raised in Middlesex, United Kingdom. For all you astrologers out there, I’m told I’m a very typical Sagittarius (whatever that may be?) and frequently described as quirky, random and occasionally a “ridiculous human being”… which I can only assume is a compliment. When I’m not reading/writing I’m really into running, meditation, yoga and a ton of other stuff I don’t really have time for. I’ve been intermittent fasting for the past 2 years, I keep a ‘coincidence diary’ and a book of stoic philosophy beside my pillow. I work part time for a charity in London and spend far too long on the tubes.
I’ve been writing since I was very young, but started taking it seriously (ie; sending my work to literary agents) when I was probably around 21. I had no contacts, no family connections, no previous experience of working in publishing. So yes, it can be done!

The first of a new trilogy, NOWHERE has just been released - how would you describe it to potential readers?
NOWHERE is about a group of teenagers who are being held in a mysterious high security prison. They’re told they’ve committed terrible crimes (but none of them can remember doing so) and have been sentenced, without trial, without knowing when they will be released, where they are, or even what day of the week it is. We gradually see a mysterious cabal of the wealthiest people in the country called The Pledge is behind their incarceration… but why? (cue dramatic music) …
My editor said something in the first draft reminded her a little of “Cabin in the Woods”, which was incredibly perceptive as I’d always envisioned the series as hopping between several genres. There are elements of dystopia, sci fi, urban fantasy, conspiracy, action-adventure, mystery, among others…

NOWHERE has several big ideas and secrets...did you know when you started writing what those secrets were going to be?
Yes, absolutely. It’s easy to assume that I just came up with a high concept (kids kept in a prison, told they’ve committed crimes etc) and then looked for an answer that would fit. But actually, the series started with the idea behind the central mystery (which is explored fully in book 2) and then developed the whole prison scenario, and decided to use that to set the stage for the series.
I’ve had this approach with the smaller mysteries and secrets too. For example, in the sequel ANYWHERE, there’s talk of “something very bad” being kept inside a strange locked room. Again, I knew the secret from the start and thought of a really cool and sinister way of introducing it, so came up with the idea of a locked room that no-one is allowed to look inside.
Some people absolutely have to know every little thing about a story but I enjoy leaving blanks for the reader to fill themselves, to give their imagination a little breathing space. As the first in the series, NOWHERE is deliberately kept quite ambiguous – I mean there are hints as to what the mystery is (and a few readers have almost hit the mark), but it is quite complex. Some people will never see it coming, and by the second book, the series will have morphed into something else entirely.

The kids in NOWHERE don’t know where they are being held. If you were held for your own good, is there somewhere you’d like to be? (Personally I’d love to be locked in a library!)
I’m with you on the library thing. As a kid I used to amuse myself with these weird fantasies about being left overnight in mysterious bookshops and amusement arcades…

You left us on the edge of our seats at the end of NOWHERE, when’s the next book out? (And is there anything I can bribe you with to bring it forward? J)
The next book, ANYWHERE, is basically finished! I’ll be submitting to my editor within the next few days, and then it’ll probably go through a fairly extensive editing process with the Puffin team, much like NOWHERE. It’s going to be well over 500 pages. I can’t wait for people to read it, and see the direction the novel is going to take. There are some genuinely disturbing parts (fingers crossed I’m able to keep these in). One of my favourite characters in the sequel is Stephen, a psychopathic 21 year old technology billionaire - I despise him, but he is such a fun character to write, and is involved in some really shocking and cruel scenes. There is also a lot more about the menacing advisor, Emmanuel, and some hints as to who (or what) he is…
As for release dates, I think the plan is probably summer 2014, but if there are any changes I’ll keep you posted!

And a random question, if you could have one superpower, what would it be?

I spend far too much time thinking about this. The three I’ve reduced it to are 1) Matrix-style ‘time distortion’, 2) Teleportation 3) Healing (myself and others). Healing is probably the most sensible and altruistic, but I love the idea of being able to fight off a gang of enemies with slow-motion kung fu. Then again, why would I ever be surrounded by enemies? I write books and work for a charity…


Finally a 60 second, quick question quiz
-          Favourite Book you’ve read? Don Quixote

-          Favourite food? Italian; probably a risotto

Ophelia, Netherland Dwarf
-          Favourite film? Toy Story (yep, I’m a big kid) followed by Kubrick’s 2001; A Space Odyssey

-          Favourite music? Everything, but I’ve been listening to The National’s new album, Trouble Will Find Me, which is superb.

-          Favourite authors? JG Ballard, Hemingway, Borges,

-          Any pets? My fiancee has a Netherland Dwarf rabbit called ‘Ophelia’ 

-          Favourite saying/quote? "We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing” - George Bernard Shaw
  
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions!

Thank you so much for interviewing me! If anyone wants to get in touch I’m on twitter @jonstoryteller and facebook.com/jonrobinsonbooks