Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Shadow Reader by Sandy Williams

The Wild One
Ok so this is pretty basic modern fantasy stuff. Hot babe? Yup. Giant weapon of some kind, preferably a sword? Oh yes. Determined 'strong woman' pose? God help me yes. Even down to her knee high riding boots there's really very little to put this apart from the thousands of other  tough looking women (and girls) staring defiantly out at me from my bookshelf, daring me to just try and read them. But I kind of like this one. I don't know if it's the soft dreamlike colours, the magical whisps or even the fact that she's looking over her shoulder at us (despite the fact she has a bum like a zebra) it all seems to work together.

Rebel, Rebel
Mackenzie Lewis is a college student trying hard to finally complete her degree after so many years of retakes and make up essays. A degree that's been put on hold so many times that she's not even surprised when an invisible and heavily armed fae steps out of thin air and into the middle of her exam. Why would she be, when this has been a regular occurrence for the last ten years of her life. Because Mackenzie has the sight, a rare ability allowing humans to see the fae, but even rarer she can also read their shadows, imprints left behind when they phase between places. And it is this treasured skill, letting her pinpoint the exact location of retreating fae, that dragged her into the middle of a magical civil war ten years ago. Ten long years spent serving their King and harboring illegal feelings for his sword master Kyol. However this time when Kyol comes for her so do the entire rebel army and Mackenzie ends up in the clutches of the arrogant Aren, pretender to the crown and all round evil bad guy. Or at least that's what she'd always been taught at the King's court. But after some time as a political prisoner she starts to doubt everything she's ever been told about the rebellion, and especially about Aren.

Leader of the Pack
Ding, ding ding! We have another amazing debut people! It's true I looked in to it because I just couldn't really believe it was true, this is Ms Williams' very first published novel. And it's a stonker of a modern fantasy tale, which I enjoyed immensely.

The Shadow Reader manages to pull off that rare trick of plopping you right in the middle of the action at the very start and keeps you on tenterhooks while still dropping those little bits of important information so you know what the hell is going on. We start with Mackenzie trying to retake yet another final when all round honorable fae and magnificent hottie, Kyol, fissures in to the exam out of thin air and tells her the rebels are coming to kidnap her. What follows was one of the best opening scenes I've read all year, Ms Williams is a dab hand at writing good action that flows perfectly while you read. I loved the way she took the idea of how the fae phase in and out of our world using fissures and turned it into a brilliant method of attack and ambush, it brought a whole new level to the fighting.
""You must make it to the gate, Mackenzie. You must!" 
Instinct screams for me to get inside the building, but I trust Kyol with my life, so I stop fighting and glance over my shoulder. Arrows still fly through the air. A few seconds after they leave the rebels' bows, they'll become visible to normal humans, so if a fae misses his target or doesn't hit a fissure, people will see the bolts embedded in trees or the ground or skidding across the cement. None of the student are reacting, though. The rebels are being careful. 
I take a small step forward. Some of the Court fae have fissured to the rooftops to fight; others remain on the ground, darting in and out of their fissures in smooth defensive dances. They're drawing the rebels' attacks, but it's a long way to the gate. They'll tire before I get there. Some of them might die. Kyol might die. 
"I'll be fine" he says, reading the concern in my expression. He cups my cheek in his hand. "As long as you're safe, I'll be fine.""
The fissures are also where Mackenzie's much sought after skill comes in, she can see the shadows of wherever in the world a fae has phased, which means they can be tracked. A useful talent and the sole reason she is so hotly pursued by the rebels. I rather liked Mackenzie, she wasn't a physical fighter but she had this try or die attitude that was admirable. I also loved the way Ms Williams builds the reluctant relationship she develops with Aren, it was a big point in Mackenzie's favour that she continued to distrust and thwart Aren's plans regardless of her attraction to him. Likewise her willingness to except certain unwanted truths about her beloved fae Court when she is faced with them, it's always refreshing to find myself not yelling at a book because the heroine is being a total numpty.

In addition to the main three, The Shadow Reader is rife with lovable and fully fleshed out secondary characters and it's these guys that really help expand the feel of the book's world beyond Mackenzie's immediate thoughts (no mean feat in story told from the first person!). I throughly enjoyed the fae's politics and history and what makes them even more interesting is being treated to two different versions.

It's no bad thing that The Shadow Reader reminded me of one of my all time favorites, the Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin. I'm also extremely pleased that the story has a good solid ending, it's not left completely open but no annoying cliffhangers either, an all round satisfying read.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Butcher's Hook
You may not be able to see it from this picture but you really need to grab a copy of this book and look at this cover! Some amazing soul made  of patience seems to have drawn an incredibly detailed (and hilariously annotated) map of London and again bonus points for the cover, almost lovingly, reflecting the story inside. Please do ignore the strangely titled and, while still cool, less awesome cover of the US version, Midnight Riot, as the effort and sheer detail in this cover deserves your attention!

The Knowledge
Police Constable Peter Grant is just finishing his two year probationary stint with the London Metropolitan Police and is desperately trying to avoid being placed into the Case Progression Unit. The unit where the only police skills he'll utilise are touch typing, photocopying and letting the other proper cops get the real police work done, cops like his fellow probationary PC and not-so-secret crush PC Lesley May. Then one night, while Grant and May are guarding the scene of a particularly bizarre murder, Peter finds himself face to face with a ghost, a ghost who claims to have witnessed the crime. So like a good policeman Peter takes his statement. And it is this mentally questionable act that leads him into the eccentric sights of Inspector Nightingale, sole member of the Met's vaguely named Economic and Specialist Crime unit and resident weirdo. But anything is better than a lifetime of doing other people's paperwork so Peter jumps at the offer to join. And suddenly finds himself going on ghost hunts, brokering peace between the personifications of the River Thames and their tributary children and most importantly starting his apprenticeship as a police wizard.

That's The Sound of The Police
You know what? I've clearly been reading way too many American books lately, my genres of choice are rather dominated by our US cousins and there's nothing wrong with that. But I didn't realise how much I'd been missing good old British humor until I read this book. That quietly dry, frequently foul mouthed and always self effacing wry humor that the US is always trying to replicate by remaking our TV shows with little success (don't worry it goes both ways, our sitcoms are utter balls, My Family anyone? Ergh) Anyway it wasn't the only reason I loved this book but it ran through the story so effortlessly it made it even more of a joy to read.

As a person who absolutely hates visiting the real life city of London with all it's tourist crowded transport and the fact that it’s costs about a month's wages for a pint, I love reading about it, especially when the author clearly has a deep affection for our capital city. The London in books is so much more interesting the one in real life and Mr Aaronovitch has created a fascinating London that still manages to be a pretty accurate representation of the real thing. This book is filled with Peter’s observations and almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the historical hot spots of London and I love it when a book teaches me new things like this. But even better then that is Peter's inability to stay focused, he gets distracted so easily and his mind takes him so some hilariously embarrassing places. My absolute favourite passage in the book is when he first meets the river Goddess, Mama Thames.
"Her face was round and unlined, her skin smooth and perfect as a child's, her lips full and very dark. She had the same black cat-shaped eyes as Beverly. Her blouse and wrap skirt were made from the finest gold Austrian lace, the neckline picked out in sliver and scarlet, wide enough to display one smooth plump shoulder and the generous upper slopes of her breasts.
One beautifully manicured hand rested on a side table, at the foot of which stood a burlap sacks and little wooden crates. As I stepped closer I could smell salt water and coffee, diesel and bananas, chocolate and fish guts. I didn't need Nightingale to tell me I was sensing something supernatural, a glamour so strong it was like being washed away in the tide. In her presence I found nothing strange in the fact that the Goddess of the River was Nigerian. 
'So you are the wizard's boy' said Mama Thames. 'I thought there was an agreement?' 
I found my voice. 'I believe it was more of an arrangement' 
I was fighting the urge to fling myself to my knees before her and put my face between her breasts and  go blubby, blubby, blubby."
From the sublime to the ridiculous, Peter tries so hard to concentrate but more often then not his thoughts swing wildly away from him and it made him a joy to follow.

I also have to give a standing ovation for the plot (which I will not spoil, don't fret) because after a few years of reading increasingly more and more books with supernatural or fantastical elements. I was, for the first time in a long time, presented with something that felt completely new and original to me. The ideas behind the crimes, the perpetrator's motives and the final big reveal was handled brilliantly and I already have the next in the series, Moon Over Soho, cued up and waiting for me to dive in (as soon as lovely man finishes it!)

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Follow Friday

It's that time again! Make sure you head over to Parajunkie's View and check out the humungoid list of fellow book bloggers!

This weeks Featured blogger is fabulous Ems and her blog of whimsy In Which Ems Reviews Books. Be sure to head over and check her out.

So (drumroll) this weeks question is:

Q: If you could have dinner with your favorite book character, who would you eat with and what would you serve?

Well my choice is easy but I doubt I could provide the amazing kind of food she seems to enjoy in the books! I'd totally choose Ai Ling from Silver Phoenix and Fury of The Phoenix cos that girl really appreciates food! Totally a character after my own heart, she follows delicious smells without thinking and wants to try absolutely everything! I guess I'd need to serve a massive banquet with lots of succulently sauced meats, jeweled rice, sugared fruits and fragrant tea.
But I reckon Ai Ling would be just as happy with some homemade scones with lashings of clotted cream and strawberry jam!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Eye of the Beholder
For a title that's only available on e-readers this is one awesome cover. Certainly eye catching and pretty apt considering the amount of alcohol that's consumed in this book, I know I've had few morning afters where I truly believed Hell had set up shop on my tongue!

Take On Me
Abby Abernathy has a few rules she needs to stick to if she’s going to get through her college years at Eastern without her past catching up with her. Study hard, be good and above all stay away, far away, from the bad boys. A promise she finds difficult to keep after experiencing her first underground college fight and runs headfirst into the infamous Travis ‘Mad Dog’ Maddox. Shaved head, tattoos and famously free with his affections for the females, Travis is everything Abby needs to avoid lest her shady Vegas past drags her down again. But with her best friend from home, America (seriously that is her name) dating Travis’ cousin and roommate Shepley, he proves impossible to ignore. And when Abby foolishly accepts and loses Travis’ wager, she finds herself the roommate of Eastern’s most notorious bad boy for a whole month.

Mad About The Boy
I have no idea what possessed me to pick this little morsel up, I’m not usually a straight down the line romance kind of girl (although I do enjoy the odd smutty scene!). But it was a decent price, it was an ebook (so no waiting for the post) and it seems to be getting some high praise from the Amazonians so I thought what the hell. Man am I glad I read this book!

Firstly I totally loved Abby, she was self sufficient, practical but not above letting herself go with a bit of bad behaviour. Basically she was tonnes of fun and I wished she was real so her and I could totally go dancing together. She was pretty clueless at times as well (especially when it came to Travis) but never in that severely frustrating way where you swear the main character must be blind and stupid, I completely got that her reluctance to admit her own feelings was forcing her to ignore Travis’.

And Travis Maddox! What an awesome name for an incredible character. Travis is not your usual run of the mill bad boy turned good for the woman he loves (thank god cos those guys are boring) He’s already a pretty decent guy when they first meet, none of that smouldering sneery faced ‘treat ‘em mean’ malarkey. OK so he is a complete man whore and he is certainly less then civil to all of his conquests but once Abby has established that the two of them are only going to be friends, he only ever treats her with respect and, quite frankly, becomes adorably protective of her. Although he definitely takes ‘protective’ to a whole new level.
"Adam threw a scarlet square of fabric on Marek's limp body, and the mob detonated. Cash changed hands once again, and the expressions divided into the smug and the frustrated.
I was pushed around with the movement of those coming and going. America called my name from somewhere in the back, but I was mesmerized by the trail of red from my chest to my waist.

A pair of heavy black boots stepped in front of me, diverting my attention to the floor. My eyes traveled upward; jeans spattered with blood, a set of finely-chiseled abs, a bare tattooed chest drenched in sweat, and finally a pair of warm, brown eyes. I was shoved from behind, and Travis caught me by the arm before I fell forward.

"Hey! Back up off her!" Travis frowned, shoving anyone who came near me. His stern expression melted into a smile at the sight of my shirt, and then he dabbed my face with a towel. "Sorry about that Pigeon."
Adam patted the back of Travis' head. "C'mon, Mad Dog! You have some dough waitin' on ya!"

His eyes didn't stray from mine. "It's a damn shame about the sweater. It looks good on you" In the next moment he was engulfed by fans, disappearing the way he came. 
"What were you thinking you idiot?" America yelled, yanking my arm.
"I came here to see a fight, didn't I?" I smiled."
In a book that has bare knuckle fighting, indiscriminate sex and drunken shenanigans it’s a given that Abby and Travis’ relationship was hardly going to be all flowers, cookies and gushy feelings. Nope, they were way more interesting to read about, these two are constantly at odds and at times it’s became hearth wrenchingly sad to see them dig into each other. They sort of become that couple, the one you remember from school or University who were nothing but drama, everything was either amazing or downright awful and everybody had to witness their daily shout fests. Weirdly even though I found those couples insufferable in real life, they don’t half make for fascinating reading! Plus the adorable additions of America and Shepley help to ground the two, they were great secondary characters and never shied from calling out either Travis or Abby when they got a little dramatic.

In the beginning Beautiful Disaster is really just that familiar romance story in which the sneaky machinations of the hero are all in order to get the heroine to fall for him (or at least to not hate his guts). But this story goes way past that initial happy ending and shows you how hard it is to keep that perfect forever after, how’s it’s not just down to great sex or even love, it needs honesty and the acceptance that some things need to be let go. This epiphany didn’t even occur to me until a day after I finished the book! Up till then it was just a great fun story, but it has stuck with me and I’m so glad I took a chance on reading it.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

The Blue Shell
Is there such a thing as a perfect cover? One where it’s style, originality and relevance to the story come together beautifully into a tasty pile of scrumptiousness. Like combining pancakes with maple syrup and bacon, all delicious items of munch on their own, but together they are perfection. This cover is all that and glass of fruit juice.

Banana Bomb
It’s 2044, we’ve stripped the earth bare of most of her resources and wars are being waged over what‘s left, there is little to enjoy about life in the USA. Between scrabbling for food stamps and sharing a trailer with his hateful Aunt and 20 other desperate people, Wade Watts only has one good thing in this life: the OASIS. Created by the eccentric and reclusive James Halliday, a man obsessed with the 80’s of his youth. OASIS is a virtual online universe of infinite possibilities, where you can be whatever you want, go wherever you want and own whatever you want. Or at least you can if you can afford it. But for now Wade has to make do with the free limited access he gets to attend school on the virtual plain.
Something that will have to change if he’s ever going to going to be a serious competitor for the ultimate prize, a prize that will be awarded to whoever cracks Halliday’s final riddle and completes his hidden tests. Complete ownership of OASIS as well as the billionaire’s entire fortune.

But years pass after the Halliday’s death and still no one has made any progress unlocking the first riddle. That is until the fateful day Wade’s name appears at the top of the scoreboard for all to see. And not everybody after the prize is willing to play fair.

'I Defeated the Sword Master of Melee Island and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt.'
If I was to write a list of the emotions my brain experienced while reading this book it would probably go a little bit like this: Excitement, Anticipation, Love, More Excitement, Fist Punching the Air, Trepidation, Love, Joy, Tears, Adoration, Oodles of more Excitement and finally Book hugging Love. But that doesn’t really make for an interesting review and it makes me sound like an excitable Chihuahua.

So I'll begin with the world, both of them. This is a bleak future that Wade lives in and it's the usual dystopian problems of limited resources, widespread poverty and crime so it's no wonder that the majority of the story takes place within the OASIS, probably the greatest virtual online platform known to fiction (I seriously would rate this even above the Star Trek holodeck, and I wanted to live there when I was a child!). It's structured like a multiverse of planetary systems and each planet can be fashioned in any way the creator chooses, it's virtual so there are no restraints. And the imagination Mr Cline has put into describing the places Wade visits is extraordinary. You would think that a world based solely on the fandoms of the past and present would somehow be limiting or that they would be employed as a sort of cheap nostalgic thrill to hook us nerdy lot in. Not so, the OASIS is beautifully realised and feels completely authentic, if it existed today (and goddamn it why doesn't it!) I have no doubt that it would resemble almost exactly what Mr Cline has created, this man knows how fans think.
“I’d designed my avatar’s face and body to look, more or less, like my own. My avatar had a slightly smaller nose than me, and he was taller. And thinner. And more muscular. And he didn’t have any teenage acne. But aside from these minor details, we looked more or less identical.”
And, more importantly, how we talk. The dialogue is charming, awkward and believable. Wade is a sixteen year old boy with an obsession, to crack James Halliday's final riddle. And his knowledge of the eccentric genius is encyclopedic, Wade is a human library on the games, movies, music and pop culture that Halliday loved and (like all serious fans) there's nothing he loves more then to discuss them. Which he does, at length with his only real (albeit virtual) friend Aech, the semi famous online arena fighter. The scenes between these two are hilarious and at times all a little bit too real for me (I have been known to take some movie/game arguments a little too far). And once he meets Art3mis, the avatar he's been crushing on through her blog posts, I really started to love Wade and his adorable round about way of flirting, despite the fact he knows full well that Art3mis could quite possibly be a 25 stone 40 year old man in real life.
“I watched a lot of YouTube videos of cute geeky girls playing '80s cover tunes on ukuleles. Technically, this wasn't part of my research, but I had a serious cute-geeky-girls-playing-ukuleles fetish that I can neither explain nor defend.”
Despite Wade's superior Halliday knowledge and the fact that he is the first to break the first riddle, he is still at a disadvantage when his sudden international fame brings him to the attention of the IOI corporation, the seriously bad guys in this story. They employ hundreds of experts, use top of the range equipment and all they want is to win that prize and take OASIS to turn it in to the money making machine it could be, and they are more then willing to kill for it. The IOI guys (or Sixers as they're known) were effectively brutal villains and their leader, Sorrento, is as charmingly evil as they come.

This is a book for anyone who has ever loved a movie or a game or anything so much they just wanted everyone else to love it as much as they did. And this is exactly how I feel about this book, it is currently my Favorite Book of The Year so far and I have already enticed four other people to enjoy it as well, usually by throwing it at them repeatedly until they relented, needless to say they thanked me later (and the bruises totally faded!). 

Do not let this book go unread!

Review is based on an advanced reader copy which was kindly supplied by NetGalley. My review is a honest account and absolutely no payment was received for it. I also then went and purchased a copy anyway as it was so freakin' awesome!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Follow Friday

It's that time again! Make sure you head over to Parajunkie's View and check out the humungoid list of fellow book bloggers!

This weeks Featured blogger is the lovely Kati and her spanking blog the: Jagged Edge. Be sure to head over and check her out.

So (drumroll) this weeks question is:

Q. If you could pick one character in a book, movie or television show to swap places with, who would it be?

Had a good think about this while staring at my bookshelves. Firstly thought about Deryn from the Leviathan trilogy by Scott Westerfield, cos lets face it, she's serving on a giant flying whale airship in an alternative WWI against humungous German robots! But she's a lot younger then me so I reckon that would be a bit weird (going through puberty once is more than enough for me!)
So I finally settled on the industrious and sharp witted Veronica Hobbs from the Newbury and Hobbs series by George Mann. I currently have a serious addiction for all things steampunk and Victorian and Mr Mann's series is the perfect antidote. She gets to battle clockwork zombies, foil insane geniuses, look after her clairvoyant sister and whip Sir Maurice Newbury into shape when he's feeling sorry for himself.   A pretty perfect heroine.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick

Look Into My Eyyyyeees
Frankly I can take or leave this cover, it’s a fuzzy grey face like shape. There’s not a whole lot more I say about it. Except it’s maybe the first cover that wasn’t detrimentally affected by being viewed on my kindle. There you go, a positive!

It's The End Of The World As We Know It
Alex has decided to check out of the everyday grind, taking her beat up car, camping gear and a few prized possessions she leaves her Aunt without a word and heads for the wilderness for what maybe the last time. Having made the decision to forgo any further treatment, Alex is vividly aware that the tumour in her brain can take her away at any moment, just like it did her sense of smell. And before that happens she plans to do one last thing for her deceased parents. However her plans are drastically derailed when a wave of excruciating pressure and madness suddenly hits Alex and every living thing around her. Then just as suddenly, it lifts, leaving Alex in a world where technology has died, where the moon is a hazy green and where nearly everybody else is dead. And most of those that survived are suddenly craving meat of a different kind, the two legged variety. Now Alex along with Ellie, an eight year old orphan, and Tom, a solider on leave, are trying to find out what happened, but first they'll need to survive it.

Funk To Funky
It seems you can’t swing an undead cat these days without hitting a book, movie, game or comic featuring zombies in some way. Most are obviously pretty shoddy cash ins on the never ending popularity of these shuffling monsters, but there are a golden few that really take the mythos and the terror of the zombie and use it so effectively that you forget the old slow-moving-brain-eating-infected-bitey-faced rules and just fall into the story with relish. Ashes is one such story.

I was completely sucked in from the first page and I just know it's going to be a great book when that happens. It opens with Alex, on the phone to her Aunt, trying to explain why she just up and left with out a word and how she's secretly still trying to decide if she's coming back at all. Alex broke my heart within just the first few pages but I never pitied her. She quickly establishes herself as a girl who's already tried everything, thought it all through a hundred times over and she's finally come to her decision to stop the treatments and get on with the things she needs to do before she can't anymore.
"A chronic headache muttered in her temples, but like Barrett said, no one ever died from pain. True, but some days you didn't much enjoy living either. Eventually, the smell of smoke went away- but so did the smell of everything else, because the monster didn't shrivel up but continued silently growing and munching. 
What no one warned her about was that when you had no sense of smell at all, a lot of memories fizzled. Like the way the smell of a pine tree conjured a quick brain-snapshot of tinsel and Christmas lights and a glittery angel, or the spice of nutmeg and buttery cinnamon made you flash to a bright kitchen and your mother humming as she pressed pie crust into a glass dish. With no sense of smell, your memories dropped like pennies out of a ripped pocket, until the past was ashes and your parents were blanks, nothing more then the holes in Swiss cheese."
She carries this grim determination throughout the book, admirably applying her survival skills and knowledge to the er.. less then usual situations. And what of the situation? Well considering Alex has purposely taken herself well off the map when the mysterious pulse happens we're obviously not going to be treated to a nice explanation of what it was and what immediate effects it has. Besides the crazy animal behavior, the way it effects Alex, little Ellie and her Grandfather who were just passing by, we're as in the dark as Alex is, and I loved that! All those glimpses of the aftermath, the little teasing tidbits which our heroes start to piece together in to theories along with the total failure of any communication technology, really invoked the feelings of total isolation from the outside world.

And of course, there's the wild man-eating kids. Oh yes here be zombies, or not as the case may be, these monsters may have a taste for the long pig but there the similarities end. I don't want to go into too much detail with the nasties as their appearances are few (although the threat of them hangs heavily) but I can say that they are terrifyingly good monsters, I'm not afraid to admit that I may have been late back from lunch a few times because I really needed to make sure everyone was going to be alright, especially the mysterious and swoony Tom, who seems to have his own reasons for escaping into the wilderness before the pulse struck. 

All in all Ashes is a compelling and excellently written book that will drag you back in whenever your not reading it. The characters are a joy to follow and Ms Bick totally tricks you into caring deeply about them so every dangerous moment is tensely felt. I loved it and the second book is a must buy for me as I absolutely have to find out what happens next.

Review is based on an advanced reader copy which was kindly supplied by NetGalley and Egmont USA. My review is a honest account and absolutely no payment was received for it.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Hold Me Closer Necromancer by Lish McBride

Thrill Me
It should come as no surprise that I adore this cover, anything bold and graphical will always get my little reader's heart racing, as opposed to the glut of photoshopped glowing half-faces of inexplicably healthy teens which just leaves me, at best, a little cold and, at worst, insulted. But thankfully there are no pouting My Space girlies here, and why would there be? This book is about a boy, a rather hot boy if the dish on the cover is to be believed. And, er, his crow. Apparently.

Kiss Me
Samhain, or Sam to his friends, has led a rather lackluster existence. Dropping out of college and working full time at the local burger joint, Plumpy's, with his only three friends was not on his list of things to achieve in life. So when an ill advised potato hockey match brings him to the attention of one Douglas Montgomery, necromancer and all round power crazed a-hole. Sam is very surprised to suddenly find a whole world of crazy shiz existing right in front of his face. And now all of it is revolving around him. Disembodied heads that can talk, dancing zombies being sucked out of the ground, little girls demanding waffles in exchange for knowledge on the dead and a very cute werewolf girl all come together when Sam realises that Douglas's offer to train him in necromancy, may not be the selfless kind act he insists it is.

Kill Me
Debut! I have to keep reminding myself this is a debut novel. Because it was so good! Where on earth did Ms McBride appear from with this little gem, and why oh why did I have to pick it up now? When there's no news yet of the next book and I have no clue how long I'll have to wait till it's released? I have absolutely no patience when it's comes to waiting for the next book in a series I love, but as we all know (and so I keep telling myself) absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer feels like a pretty short book mainly due to the fact that we don't get to meat of the story until about halfway through, but Ms McBride is such an natural at weaving interest and humor into the everyday moments I didn't really notice that I had more pages in my left hand then my right when things really began to kick off. Which turned out to be a bonus if you consider the emotional pay back I got from all those pages spent building the characters was huge. Even the characters with the smallest word time were a pleasure to read about and not once did I have any trouble imagining a face or location, Ms McBride has that rare skill with writing that allows you to follow the action perfectly with the bare minimum of words (see also Sarah Rees Brennan and Ilona Andrews).
"Ramon and I started a rousing game of "Guess What I Put In The Fryer."
I closed my eyes and leaned against the back of the shake machine. There was a fairly large plop and a hiss from the fryer. "Pickle," I said.
"That's uncanny, Sam" Ramon said. 
"Not really. I just helped Frank get the bucket out of the walk-in." 
"Damn," he said. 
After the pickle, a bun, one set of tongs, a spoonful of mayonnaise, and a hat, Ramon ran out of ideas, and I decided not to eat the fries here any more. I stared at Ramon's spatula. 
"Thou shalt not covert thy neighbor's spatula, Sammy.  
"I'm pretty sure that's not in the Bible," I said. 
"How do you know? Have you ever read it?" He slapped a chicken burger on the grill. 
"Not really, but I'm still pretty sure that's not in there" 
"Trust me." he said. 
"Fine," I said, "what version then?" 
"The King Ramon version. Spatulas are considered very sacred in the King Ramon version."
I folded my arms across my chest. "Well, I'm not Christian, so I can covet. I can covet like a fiend.""
Sam himself is rather lovable (and, I thought, a bit of a hottie), despite seeming to be a massive dropout and all round failure. His three best friends make up a fantastically dysfunctional Scooby Gang of sorts and I challenge anyone to read this book and not wish Ramon was their bestie for life, everybody needs a friend who wouldn’t think twice about hitting a rampaging psycho with their skateboard for them. I also adored tough-as-dried-on-porridge Brid, she was bright, optimistic and wasn't afraid to take what she wanted regardless of being stuck in a cage for most of the book, and the scenes with her and Sam? I lived for those while reading this.

So in conclusion, it has action, it has funny, it has romance and it has a genuinely scary bad dude. All this filtered through the sharp pen of Lish McBride make this a must read. And if anyone knows anything about when and what the next instalment will be. Please share the love with me?

Friday, 9 September 2011

Follow Friday

It's that time again! Make sure you head over to Parajunkie's View and check out the humungoid list of fellow book bloggers!
This weeks Featured blogger is the mind bending Holjo and her trusty blog the: Pedantic Phooka. Be sure to head over and check her out, she seems to have an unnatural ability for unearthing awesome books I've never heard of!

And (the best part) the question!

Q. Have you ever wanted a villain to win at the end of a story? If so, which one??

Not really a story but when I was a kid I really really hoped that one day Wile. E. Coyote would FINALLY catch that smug little bastard. I mean, he worked so hard at it and his ideas were genius! Not to mention he probably went bankrupt what with all those extravagant purchases from the Acme Corporation. 

But no, the roadrunner wins and Not because he's smarter or more cunning. No. Just because he can run fast.

What an arse.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

God's War by Kameron Hurley

Bugged Out
Woman who's so tough she took one look at The Expendables and pissed herself laughing? Check. Mysteriously robed dude with his little creepy crawly friends? Check. Plus the dismembered head and gorgeously tiled background make this a double cover win for being both beautiful and specifically relevant to the story. Extra special bonus points for featuring dark skinned protagonists (because, you know, the characters are dark it would be nonsensical to have white people on the cover, they may as well have a picture of a roller coster) especially considering the picture they nearly ended up with.

The Angry Angry Caterpillar
On a desert planet with multiple suns, two powerful countries, the heavily religious Chenja and the 'ungodly' Nasheen, have all but wiped out each other's menfolk fighting their centuries old holy war. Nyx is trying to scrape out a living in Nasheen, a country now run by women while all the men are sent to the front to fight. After losing her coveted position as a Bel Dame assassin and finishing a prison sentence, she runs a small bounty hunting service with the help of her rag tag crew featuring a shapeshifter, a teenage weapons expert and her subpar magician Rhys, a man capable of controlling the ubiquitous energy all their technology runs on. Bugs. 
Accepting a suspiciously well paid mission for the Nasheen Queen, Nyx is trailing a missing off worlder who claims to possess the power to finally end the war. But in which side's favour?

Entomology 101
What an incredible world Ms Hurley has created here! We've all seen desert based worlds before in sci fi and fantasy, they can be (ironically) rather fertile settings for writers to explore, although too often you are left with a Dune or Firefly taste in your brain. What I enjoyed about God's War was the way she completely embraced this arid environment as her world, and then fully mapped out of all the problems it would cause with things like travel, health and food and how civilizations would adapt to these difficulties. No hermetically sealed underground cities or widely available flying machines here. Here people deal with the deadly environment with nothing but the basics. They develop cancers as easily as we grow our nails, with a war-zone choking on deadly gases clean organs are freely traded for cash and male children are smuggled across neutral borders to save them from a lifetime fighting at the front. Weirdly it seems so alien and at the same time familiarly human.

Personally, my favorite part of this world was the technology. Everything on this planet, from weapons to cars to radios, is run using bugs. Creepy crawlies spill out of exhaust pipes on organically run cars and seal up wounds. They can be controlled to varying degrees by the magicians, men and women born with this ability that sets them apart and, they seem to think, above everyone else. Nyx's magician, Rhys, is not exceptionally gifted but as a devoutly religious Chejan man in very prejudiced Nasheen, he's got little option but to stay with Nyx and aid her on any mercenary work she picks up. Regardless of how much he may disapprove of the work and, especially, the woman herself.

"Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the desert. Drunk, but no longer bleeding, she pushed into a smoky cantina just after dark and ordered a pinch of morphine and a whiskey chaser. She bet all of her money on a boxer named Jaks, and lost it two rounds later when Jaks hit the floor like an antique harem girl.  
Nyx lost every coin, a wad of opium and the wine she'd gotten from the butchers as a bonus for her womb. But she did get Jaks into bed, and - loser or not - in the desert after dark, that was something.
"What are you after?" Jaks murmired in her good ear. They lay tangled in the sheets like old lovers: a losing boxer with a poor right hook and a tendency to drop her left, and a wombless hunter bereft of money, weapons, food and most her clothing.
"I'm looking for my sister," Nyx said. It was partly the truth. She was looking for something else too, something worth a lot more, and Jaks was going to help her get it."

Nyx is a deeply complex character and I loved her complete honesty in everything she did, even when telling an outright lie. It's fair to say she's not your average 'kick ass heroine' (which is a good thing, no tight trousers and an alpha male for her) she's barely even heroic, except maybe in her ability to withstand punishment. Nyx deals with all types of pain in this book and it gets pretty graphic at points, but then I love those stories where the protagonist spends most of the book just barely surviving and trying to pull bits of themselves back together, so it wasn't a problem for me (see also the brilliant Samuil Petrovich by Simon Morden). Her former Bel Dame sisters made for incredibly effective villains, they are ruthless in their pursuit of Nyx and her crew and I found myself truly believing that they wouldn't stand a chance against the trained assassins.

God's War is a beautifully scenic story about violence and desperation on a planet that's learned to live around the constant every day horrors of war. It's characters are flawed and imperfect but lovable, and the reluctance to admit trust between Nyx and Rhys was just so much more satisfying to read then the usual pinned on romance that a lesser writer would have shoe horned in here. The next installment, Infidel, is out next month so now is the perfect time to pick this diamond up.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Heartless by Gail Carriger

Cream or Lemon?
I've always loved the covers for this series, the first three being taken from the Clockwork Couture website (an awesome site for all you steampunk dress up fans) and despite an obvious change in model for this installment, they've still managed to completely embody the genre with the simplest of concepts. Apparently (according to The Steampunk Bible) this genre is specifically called Mannerspunk, clearly a name not thought up by a British person seeing as spunk has a whole different (and stickier) meaning over here. I much preferred Miss Carriger's turn of phrase, this book here is a Comedy of Manners.

Cucumber or Fish Paste?
Lady Alexia Maccon, preternatural, wife to a werewolf Alpha and muhjah to the Queen, is much too busy fighting off vampire assassins and consoling eccentrically dressed french scientists to give much thought to the fact she's heavily pregnant with a child that should never have existed. So when an absent minded ghost warns her the Queen is in danger Alexia waddles on, armed with her trusty parasol, to face off zombie porcupines, lovesick werewolves and her overly demanding sister in order to uncover the dastardly conspirators.

High Noon or High Tea?
Oh yes! Yes, yes, yes!! If you can't tell I am so pleased with this book it's leaking out of my fingers as I type. I had been a little disappointed with Blameless, the last installment (though really the standard was so high to begin with it was still excellent) but thankfully Miss Carriger has pulled it back for the fourth book in this hugely enjoyable series.

As always Lady Alexia Maccon is a joy to follow around as she sticks her pronounced nose into the bad guys' business and always makes sure to do so in the most proper fashion. Throughout all the books I've loved her stout practicality in the face of all things she takes on (and she has survived a lot, not least of all being married to a man who thinks nothing of yelling out orders in the nude and is still completely incapable of tying a proper cravat.) I also adore the fact Alexia completely lacks that silly girl romanticism a lot of Victorian heroines tend to waft about like a lace hankie. Despite the larger then life cast of secondary characters the stories are all about her, she solves the mysteries, she fights off the nasties and she figures her way out the traps usually saving everybody else along the way. She is the unholy love child of Sherlock Holmes, Indiana Jones and Mrs Beeton (I'm not sure how this would come about but I'm betting some perv has posted their fanfic somewhere on the internet).

And even more amazing, she spends the entire story on the verge of giving birth! Now I've read books with pregnant characters, watched TV shows and movies with them and they've run the gambit from depressed teenage mistakes to smug glowing earth mothers. But never has a character made being pregnant in life threatening situations look so much fun.

""Oh I can't think." She rubbed at her belly, annoyed at the fuzziness her own brain, the persistent product of lack of sleep, physical discomfort, and hunger. She seemed to spend all her time either eating or dozing - sometimes dozing while eating and, once or twice, eating while dozing. Pregnancy had given her a new window into the human capacity for consumption. 
"Oh, blast it, I'm positively starving."
Instantly all three men proffered up comestibles extracted from inner waistcoat pockets. Professor Lyall's offering was a ham sandwich wrapped in brown paper, Lord Maccon's a weather beaten apple, and Lord Akeldama's a small box of turkish delight.
Months of training had seen the entire werewolf household running attendance on an increasingly grumpy Alexia and learning, to a man, that if food was not provided promptly, fur might fly, or worse, Lady Maccon would start to weep. As a result, several of the pack now crinkled as they moved, having desperately stashed snacks about their personage."

In addition to a stellar leading lady the Parasol Protectorate features one of the greatest supporting cast of characters in any series I have read. They grow with each book, revealing hidden pasts and secrets and Heartless was no exception. There are some shocking revelations in this book regarding Alexia's father and a certain member of the ensemble that had me forgetting all about the mornay sauce I was supposed to be whisking (I had to start again!). And as always the scenes between Lord and Lady Maccon are still wonderful to read, this is in fact one of only two series I can think of that hasn't lost it's spark despite the two main characters getting married (the other being, of course, the awesome Lady Julia Grey series by Deanna Raybourne) clearly a great feat for any author.

If you have not yet picked up one of Miss Carriger's books, do it now! And do it in this order:

Timeless (out March 2012)

You can thank me later.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Cinder & Ella by Melissa Lemon

So pretty! This is quite obviously a fairy tale retelling (or is it a re-imagining?) Loving the whimsicality of this cover and the gnarly old tree is a big part of the actual story so extra points for that.

Branching Out
The little house of Willow top was once a happy place for Weston of Willow Top, his beautiful wife Adela and their four wonderful daughters: Katrina the eldest, Cinder, Ella and Beatrice the little one. But one fateful day the evil Prince Monticello comes spreading lies and falsities about his father the King. The girls father is so inspired by these words he leaves with nary a word. Years past and their mother grows distant, Katrina becomes vain and Beatrice grows spoilt. Only Cinder (with a little help from Ella) keeps the home running smoothly. But when she decides to go work in the Kings castle Ella can no longer stand to live in a house were she is ignored and bullied. Setting out on her own she starts a series of events which will lead her to confront the evil Prince, fall in love with a clumsy knight and maybe return her father home.

Hack, Slash and Burn
Oh dear. Like many people who enjoy young adult and fantasy stories, a great fairy tale rewrite (reproduction? recreation?) is one of my favorite things to sink into on a lazy Sunday. But this was not an enjoyable read for me at all, but I'll get to that in a bit firstly the good stuff.

I did appreciate the idea behind this reconstruction of the Cinderella story, having the two separate girls who are melded into one in the mind of their heartbroken and distant mother. But thats all this was, a good idea executed weakly. The girls were kind of vague and wishy washy to me, Ella eventually comes into her own towards the end, developing a little into a stronger likable character but Cinder remains limp  and pale throughout the story. I barely noticed her unless she was getting all hot and heavy over the obviously evil Prince, and then I just felt annoyed at her for being so weak.
"The prince was always careful not to be caught in one of his lies, but this time he had come close. There were too many knights in the kingdom to keep track of them all and until that moment, Monticello had not realized that the knight standing before him was the knight he had been waiting for.  
Monticello walked to Cinder and whispered in her ear.  
"I will go and hear what he has to say and then bring the news to you. I won't allow him to spoil your evening any further." He stroked her soft, round cheek and nudged her toward her seat at the table. "Sit back down, Cinder. This is a ball. And you are supposed to be having a good time.""
Another thing I did like was the little bits of legend Ms Lemon sprinkled in, especially the legend of the trees, how very person is linked to a certain tree in the world and as they thrive so does the tree. That was a nice touch that was somewhat ruined by the rules of the trees constantly changing, one minute chopping down someone's tree and burning it proves to have no direct effect on them at all. And then all of a sudden choking a tree with weeds will causes the tree's person to become fatally ill. Make up your mind!

And lastly I was not a huge fan of the strange matter-of-fact writing style. Sometimes authors can take flowery language too far but a little masterful description can really lift some stories. None of that here, the whole book was written in such straight forward 'they did this and then that happened which lead to this and by the way that was because of that' kind of way that it never once pulled me in to the story. After reading a few other reviews I have to agree with the theory that this had to have been written more as moral fable rather then a actual novel. Something to be used for classes and lessons rather then personal enjoyment and the long list of discussion questions at the end cements this.

All in all this wasn't a terrible book, because it wasn't really a book. It was a lesson. That said I'm still not sure what it was meant to be teaching me seeing as the baddie seemed to have no reason for being evil and in the end his defeat was one of those 'why didn't they do that before?' moments that always annoys me. I think this book would be fine to read to small children (unless you're against your kid hearing about kissing or sword fights but then I guess you got bigger problems then deciding what to read to them) but I wouldn't recommend this to teenagers or adults, there are lots more superior takes on fairy tales out there.

Cinder & Ella is released on the 8th November 2011. I received this advanced reader copy for review from the magical genies at NetGalley and was in no way offered any wishes or jewels for my review.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Follow Friday

It's that time again! Make sure you head over to Parajunkie's View and check out the humungoid list of fellow book bloggers!

This weeks Featured Bloggers are the lovely Amber and Rosemelie at Me, My Shelf and I (is that not the greatest name ever?) and Bonnie with her cozy corner over Hands and Home. Make sure you head on over and check them out.

This week's question: 
Q. Talk about the book that most changed or influenced your life (was it a book that turned you from an average to avid reader, did it help you deal with a particularly difficult situation, does it bring you comfort every time you read it?).

Easy it was The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken, I remember loving the film as a tiny child and then discovering that it was also a book at my school's library! It was the first time I realised that books were a trillion times better then any films or TV. That was were my obsession with reading really took off.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Chemical Face Peel
I'm not sure I really like this picture, it doesn't really represent the type of book this actually is. And it's kind of embarrassing to whip out in public, Hey look at me! Look at the hot nekkid chick in a two piece, are those bullets? No they're lipsticks, cos she's a woman and women love the lipstick! So a bit too 'beach read chick lit' for my tastes but by no means the worst they could have gone with.

The Back, Sack and Crack
The Miss America Teen Dream pageant contestants are so super excited to be jetting off to the tropics for the chance to be crowned the ultimate teen! But one freak storm and a fatal crash later the few surviving girls find themselves stranded on a deserted island with no food, no shelter and no bronzer. But instead of freaking out these ladies get organised and discover their combined talents are essential to their survival. Talents that become very useful when it seems this island isn't so deserted after all, and I don't mean the hot reality TV Pirate boys who end up crashing the party. Elvis obsessed warlords, secret volcano bases and exploding lady hair remover must all be overcome if the girls are going to finally find out which of them will be crowned Miss Teen Dream.
First and foremost, this is a silly book. It most certainly does not at any point stop being silly and whenever you may feel like it has started to take itself a bit more seriously it'll fall on it's arse and blow a raspberry at you for thinking such a ridiculous thing. And I enjoyed it immensely.

Lets start with the surviving contestants, of which there are only a handful left after the crash, at first glance they're your run of the mill, fake eye lash wearing, glitter wafting, thong wielding image obsessed teens. The kind of airheads who, after something as horrific as a plane crash and the death of all their new friends, are worrying about their lack of moisturiser. But try no to judge these ladies too harshly, they may not be Bear Grylls but they certainly figure their situation out pretty sharpish and band together admirably in order to survive. In fact that was something I didn't miss in this book, the mean girl character, she has no place here and I'm glad of that. Oh there's still arguments and some of the girls definitely don't get on, but none of that bitchy evilness thats so prevalent in other teen books.
""What about this?" Miss New Mexico pointed to the tray lodged in her forehead. 
Taylor looked to Tiara and Brittani, who shurugged in unison. 
"We can't take it out. Not without surgery. I know my head wounds," Nicole confirmed. She smiled and gave a small wave. "Hi. Miss Colorado, the Centennial State."  
Miss New Mexico broke into a full-blown wail. The girls tried to comfort her, to no avail. 
"You know what you should do?" Petra said with new authority. "Bangs. So 1960's chic. You'd hardly notice the, um, the...addition." 
"Love bangs!" Mary Lou said.
"Miss Florida was the only one who had bangs and she's de- um, she's no longer participating in the pageant system. So you'd really stand out."
Miss New Mexico stared, dumbfounded,. "Stand out? Stand out! I have a freaking tray stuck in my forehead!" She broke into fresh sobs.
Taylor clapped for attention. "Miss New Mexico, let's not get all down in the bummer basement where the creepy things live. There are people in heathen China who don't even have airline trays. We have a lot to be grateful for."
You get to know a few of the girls really well and there's no way I could pick just one favorite, they were all great for entirely different reasons. There's Adina (New Hampshire) the snarky one who only entered the pageant to expose the harm she believes it does to young women (teenage undercover journalists we need more books about these guys!)  I felt the most affinity with Adina (probably like most readers she reminded me of my teenage self) she's smart but hasn't yet figured out that she doesn't know everything.
Then there's Mary Lou (Nebraska) I loved her so much, hers was the most heart wrenching backstory (which I won't spoil) but she totally overcomes the lies she was tricked into believing about herself and transforms in to this awesome wild woman!
And I most certainly cannot leave out the insane adventures of Miss "Do not Mess With" Texas Taylor Rene Krystal Hawkins. A girl who can kill a man with her bare hands, fashion explosives out of pretty much anything and whose eventual descent into bat-shit-mental provides the book with some of it's best moments. And Petra with her BIG secret and Nicole battling against her own identity and Shanti who becomes the girl I most want to be best friends with. I genuinely liked them all.

One of the best things in this book are the footnotes, Ms Bray can wield the footnote like a weapon of comedy (much like the master footer himself Sir Terry Pratchett) nearly every other page was chock full of hilarious asides and tit bits fleshing out their world, which is basically just a sillier version of our own. And she doesn't stop at footnotes, we are also treated to transcripts of corporate adverts and mini bios of the contestants, all of which had me snorting with laughter (much to the dismay of my boyfriend who tried so hard to resist asking what was so funny).

All in all I really enjoyed this book, it was irreverent, ridiculous and just plain foolish but it made me laugh, a lot, and that makes it a worthwhile read as far as I'm concerned.

Friday, 29 July 2011

The Immorality Engine by George Mann

Sumptuous Delights
This cover is so beautiful I actually want to lick it (but I won't, at least not till it's been sterilized, until then I shall merely caress it fondly like a beloved family pet). In fact the whole series of Newbury and Hobbes covers are incredibly lovely and deserve some sort of award for their fussy Victorian-punk delightfulness, like a delicious raisin scone upon which someone has spread lashings of strawberry jam (always strawberry!) on top of which is precariously balanced an unhealthy dollop of clotted cream. Ahhhhh.

The Inner Workings
Veronica Hobbes is most concerned with the state of Sir Maurice Newbury's health. Sinking further than usual into the dark embrace of his beloved opium, she (along with the help of his dear old friend Chief Inspector Bainbridge) finally feel they have a case to task his brilliant mind and spur him out of this self destructive spiral. The corpse of a renowned burglar has been discovered, but if he is irrefutably dead, then how is he continuing to pilfer stolen goods? And can an assassination attempt on the decomposing (but still quite alive) Queen Victoria as well as Miss Hobbes own troubled sister be linked to the odd case?

Steamy Windows
This is the third installment in the fantastic Newbury and Hobbes series and if your not familiar with them please ignore this post and go find copies of the gorgeous The Affinity Bridge and The Osiris Ritual, and once you've stopping stroking the covers lovingly and actually crack them open you will find rip-roaring adventures wrapped around the twisted mysteries inside. So I was rather surprised to find that this long-awaited third chapter failed to spark my interest as fervently as the previous two had. I can't definitively put my finger on what it was about this tale that fell flat for me, maybe it was the ridiculously long wait for it. After purchasing it online in July last year (when the release date was meant to be September 2010) it then failed to materialise until June 2011! And my frantic Googling could not find any reason for the delay, even on the Author’s own website! So by the time it actually arrived (19 months after the last book!) my excitement had rather dwindled.

Regardless, I cannot fault the exceptionally convoluted plot which is a staple of these investigations. The old “dead man witnessed alive and well and up to no good” gambit gets the ball rolling here, but it soon starts gathering threads and ends of other seemingly unrelated mysteries and pretty soon it’s all so beautifully tangled that only a series of explosions, insane knights of the realm and one giant mech can make sense of it. It was a great story and I doff my cap to Mr George for stuffing this book so full with these ideas.
"Newbury's eyes flickered back to her face 'Indeed. It begs the question of who exactly would be out to make such an attempt on my life. Either Sykes really is still out there, somehow, and knows I'm on to him, or someone else has control of his machine and is using it for their own increasingly nefarious purposes.'
  Veronica stepped back, her hands on her hips. Sometimes she found it difficult to stomach the sheer arrogance of men. 'I think that upon reflection, Sir Maurice, you will find the intended victim of any such assassination attempt was, in fact, me. This is my apartment, after all.'"
Unfortunately where it sort of fell down for me were the characters, apart from the odd rare moment (as above) these did not feel like the same Maurice Newbury and Veronica Hobbes of old. Granted much has happened between them and they clearly have trust issues to sort out (if they’d only bloody admit it). But it felt like Sir Newbury barely had a chance to show off his wonderfully big brain with all it's sparks of intuition and Miss Hobbes’ usually charming practicality in the face of danger; seemed to disintegrate under her growing anxiety for her sister. I kept hoping Sir Maurice would shake off the opium fuelled self pity he was wallowing in and get to solving the mystery. But it was mostly left to Miss Hobbes to do some blind snooping and Inspector Bainbridge to do all the actual research (no to mention some spectacular fisticuffs) and then after no time at all it just sort of ended.

This book felt more like a brief episode then a fully fleshed out story to me, and many of the 'great plot reveals' I had worked out ages before the characters did. But this will definitely not keep me from reading the future adventures of Newbury and Hobbes, I just love their crazy world too much.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

So I actually love this cover, it tells me exactly what this book is about. Fierce Chinese girl being all magical and shizz? That is a cover that is made of awesome. It is not, however, the cover I had on my copy. A cover so woefully inadequate and it had next to nothing to say about the story inside and that I am frankly too ashamed to feature it at all. But if you would like to see the terrible cookie cutter emo version please take a look and perhaps you can explain to me why anyone would choose to replace the gloriously pink one here with that vague wishy washy disaster.

Light Bites
Ai Ling seems to be un-marriageable, a succession of weak willed boy suitors have turned her down and it seems to have something to do with the rumor that her beloved father was once cast out of the Imperial palace in shame many decades ago. Then one fateful day he is suddenly summoned to return to the palace, months pass and there is no word. While her mother and Ai Ling try to make ends meet an elderly and gruesome merchant attempts to claims Ai Ling as his fourth wife. Rather than face a life squeezing out his children she runs away to find her father and bring him back. But, unbeknown to Ai Ling, her journey will be fraught with dangers straight out of the books of demons and ghosts her father always tried to stop her from reading as a child. And help joins her along the way in the form of the honorable and mysterious Chen Yong and his amusing brother Li Rong.

Cheery O-So Good To Eat
I cannot stress enough how much I loved this book. It's one of those wonderful old fashioned adventure stories that are so hard to find these days amongst all the high school weregoats and sexy vampire tax collectors. Ms Pon has created this rich and fragrant world filled with a vibrancy that bursts into your brain like a hot spring roll. I could see every character, no matter how small or inconsequential to the story, and she manages this with only a few choice words.

The demons Ai Ling, Chen Yong and Li Rong encounter were genuinely scary, a few times I found myself physically recoiling from the descriptions of their appearances and appetites. Maybe not a book to read in public cos you'll certainly find yourself gasping and cheering out loud through the fight scenes. And DEFINITELY not a book to read if you're hungry, Ms Pon knows how to write food and make you want that food immediately! I will also be eternally grateful to her for including her mother's recipe for Vegetarian Mapo Tofu in the extras at the back, which I will definitely attempt one day!
"It was a feast more then a midday meal. Master Tan must have asked his chef to prepare the best. Ai Ling could not recall a time that she had indulged in dishes this extravagant: roasted pheasant, tender spring vegetables, hand pulled longevity noodles, spotted porcelain river crabs, and emperor lobsters, named for their large size - dish after dish was brought to the table.
At the end of the meal, Master Tan stood to give a toast.
'Ai Ling, we wanted to send you off with a full stomach. May you never go hungry, even during your travels.'"
And she most certainly doesn't, I do love a character that enjoys food. In fact I love Ai Ling for a whole host of reasons, she's smart, she's curious (which does get her into trouble more then once but nothing ventured...) she's tough and she certainly holds her own in a fight regardless of the two strapping lads who accompany her. And speaking of which, Chen Yong is a sword wielding gentleman made of swoon, all serious and brooding one minute and lighthearted and tender the next. Ai Ling's affections, understandably, swing to him like he's magnetic north but she never moons over him which I liked, she just nurtures her feelings quietly which was rather classy. I also had big love for Li Rong, the hilariously amorous little brother of Chen Yong. Li Rong is a total ladies man (or he thinks he is anyway) and his big mouth lets fly some classic lines that had me snickering like a little kid hearing the words poo and boobies in the same sentence.

As soon as I finished this book I wanted to run out into the streets and press it in to the hands of the first person I saw, urging them to read it too. This book really had everything I wanted from a story and the best part is that the next installment Fury of the Phoenix is already out! And it's my birthday on Thursday.........hint hint.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Follow My Book Blog Friday

Follow Friday is was thought up by the awesome Rachel at Parajunkee's View, it helps us book lovers meet other bloggers out there in the vast blog-o-sphere!

This weeks Featured Blogger is the lovely Angela at her blog of amazing: Angela's Anxious Life. Make sure you head on over and check her out, here's a little bio.

Hello fellow bloggers!  My name is Angie, 32, from Colorado and I LOVE to read.  I just started blogging in the past few months and I love it.   I decided to start blogging because I really don't know a lot of people who read so I thought I would blog to find people with my interests. I got tired of talking to people about books who would then look at me with a blank stare!   At first I avoided blogging for a long time because I would go online and see all these wonderful blogs and think there was no way I could set up a web-page like the ones I was seeing.  Then one night I sat down and looked all over the internet till I figured out how to use blogger.  In fact, I received a lot of help from the blogging 101 posts right here at Parajunkee's View!  .  I recently acquired a Nook Color and am LOVING it.  I never thought I would like ebooks at all.  I swore that they weren't for me though I never gave them a chance.  Then I received the Nook for my birthday as a gift and have never looked back!

I read all different genres of books... but not a lot of non-fiction.  I will review YA, Paranormal, Mystery, Horror, Fantasy,  really anything that seems interesting. Aside from blogging I moderate two fabulous groups on  One is the YA Book Club which has 3000 members now ( and the Stephen King Fans group which has 2000 members now (  I am quite proud of both groups since I have worked so hard on them from the beginning.  The groups have grown so much that I recently had to recruit a co-mod for each group to help out!  I have discovered so many books through these bookclubs!  Some of my favorite authors are Charlaine Harris, Stephen King, George RR Martin, RA Salvatore, Rick Riordan, Janet Evanovich, Cassandra Clare, and JK Rowling just to name a few.

What do I do when I are not reading?  Well....  I love to watch TV and Movies, and play video games. I have an Xbox 360, PS3, and a Wii.  I even have a hilarious blog for my Xbox 360 where the Xbox is blogging for me From time to time on my blog you will find reviews for movies, games and TV.  My husband and I head out to the movies every Friday in the summer... and YES we plan to spend two night at the theater waiting for Harry Potter.  I will definitely post some pictures from that adventure.  I also love to go out on the town... ballet, theater, broadway shows, concerts, I am just about up for anything new and exciting.  Plus I love my two kitties and my hubby!  Feel free to stop by my blog... I try to keep it entertaining so prepare to have fun!

I do love to see other Girl Gamers out there and any lady who loves Ms Evanovich is a-ok with me!!

This week's question was "What Do I Do When I Are Not Reading?"
I love cooking, and especially baking. Which is really odd as I am not a lover of cakes and yet I really like baking them! Pastry is a completely different matter however, I would do back flips for a Vanilla Crown! I also love a good gaming session, having a computer programmer for a Dad meant I was introduced to the joy of point n' click in the heady 90's and that love has stayed with me. I love adventure games like Uncharted 2 and the new Batman:Arkham City game is my number one cannot wait for release this year. Other than that I collect crafty hobbies, currently I can sort of knit and cross-stitch, but most of my projects get forgotten as soon as I get I new book in my hot little hands!
What do you guys get up too?