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?

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The Demon's Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan

Bring It
Can I just say that normally I am not a fan of real people on covers? They always look so boringly normal and all I usually see is some tarted up 16 year old doing her best Facebook pout. But I don't see that here, this cover is gorgeous. That girl is totally Sin (look at her smoldering defiance and tremble!) and the burning London background is so very dramatic. And for a Super Bonus Cover Prize, this actually happens in the book! It is so rare these days that YA covers represent the story inside so well and look awesome at the same time.

The Nitty-Gritty
Sin loves the Goblin Market, it's been her home since she could crawl and, apart from her little siblings Todd and Lydie, dancing there is the most important thing to her in the world. She was all set to inherit it from Merris, the current leader. But now Merris has offered the place to Mae as well, a girl who is no more then a tourist and who only ever discovered the market because of Alan and Nick Ryves, Sin's allies in the Goblin Market's war against the Magicians. Now the Magicians have set their eyes on completely destroying the Market and everybody Sin loves. Reluctantly she turns to the Ryves brothers for help, which is less then ideal as she already feels like she owes Alan everything for saving her little brother life, and Sin hates owing debts. Especially to know-it-all, charming liars like Alan Ryves.

So this is the last book in a trilogy and I can't really go into how good this book was without giving away some small spoilers. So if you haven't read The Demon's Lexicon and the The Demon's Covenant go do that now and you can thank me later.

Where to start? How about the fact that this book followed Sin, a character I hadn't really paid much attention to in the first two books. Mainly because she didn't feature as much as the others and also because she always came across a little prickly and cold. So I was a little surprised when I found out the final book followed Sin, and perhaps a little disappointed? Surely, I thought, the third book should have followed Alan? Nick then Mae and finally Alan, this made sense to me because I liked Alan and he was such a main character. But I needn't have worried, Ms Rees Brennan has clearly saved the best character for last. Sin is amazingly likable, admirable even. I may have developed a small girl crush (not unlike Mae) on Sin because she's just so awesome. She loves her little brother and sister and takes care of everything for them while still going to school and dancing at the markets all while dealing with the fact that Merris (a woman she has looked up to all her life) has invited a demon to share her body and is slipping away from Sin day by day. Oh and the fact she is now in direct competition for the leadership of the goblin market with Mae, a girl who has only been to the market four times.

Despite this Sin and Mae still maintain their easy friendship and I was so glad the story never got bogged down with misunderstandings or unaired suspicions. When Sin has very good reason to suspect Mae is actually a danger to the Market, she doesn't keep it to herself letting mistrust fester between them, she lays it out for Mae and asks for the truth. Which was so refreshing! The dialogue in this book is, at times, a little quippy for my tastes. But then I'm not a super master with twin blades or a sword so who knows? Maybe if I was I'd also have time to lay out some comedy gold between taking out enemies.
"She hadn't heard Nick move, but suddenly he was pushing past her, blade in hand, running towards the sound of the gun. Sin hesitated and then ran after him, through the pathways round the wagons to the other side of the hill. She was pulled up short by the dead body at her feet.
Nick was already kneeling by he body, his hand against its chest. He looked from that dead thing up at Sin, and he smiled a wild smile that made him look handsomer than she'd ever seen him.
'You can't be sure it was Alan'
'A shot in the dark, through the heart?' Nick asked. 'I'm sure.'
With some people it was a voice they would recognise, with some people a step in the hall. Sin guessed it was fitting that Nick could look at a corpse and see his brother's skill."
The action is as exciting and fascinating to read as before, it whips along so fast but Ms Rees Brennan writes such detailed explanations that you don't ever feel lost or confused while devouring the pages. In fact I think she writes some of the best fight scenes I've ever read and whatever she goes on to write next I hope she fills it with her awesome brand of fisticuffs.

I was also glad to see that the relationship between the brothers was just as strong in this installment as in the others, they don't have as much page-time together as before, but they're still scene stealers. Especially Alan who spends much of the first two books lying so convincingly to everyone you never really know what he's ever actually like. But Sin (or Cynthia as he insists in calling her) is more then a match for him when it comes to fibbing and together they both begin reveal more of themselves to each other through their lies, so much so that I became rather attached to the pair of them, which was a sneaky underhanded thing for Ms Rees Brennan to do as this book is the last in the series and now I want more!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Equations of Life, Theories of Flight and Degrees of Freedom by Simon Morden

Some Trippy Shizz
I LOVE these covers, while I was reading them not a single day went by where someone didn't stop to ask me what I was reading because of the eye melting graphics. And I would proudly say "oh this? this is just the craziest story about a Russian physics student in post nuclear London and war has just broken out on the streets and ...........oh sorry I forgot you were there, go away I'm reading"

I would like to add that although I think these covers are the bees nuts I kind of hate the actual book titles, they're all a little vague and sort of cheesy sounding, which is probably why they've been relegated to the side and the publishers have just let the graphics do the selling. Smart move Orbit. Give yourselves a sweetie.

The Blurbington
Petrovitch likes being anonymous in the huge crowded city of the London Metrozone. He keeps his head down and spends his days battling nothing more life threatening then mathematical equations at the University, carefully never drawing attention to himself or his past. Unfortunately on the same day he witnesses a kidnapping, his altruistic side decides to act and he leaps to the rescue of one Sonja Oshicora. The only child of of a Japanese crime king pin who is now in Petrovitch's debt, much to the rival gangs' displeasure. Now Petrovitch needs to find a way of regaining his anonymity in a city filled with people looking to either kill or save him, all the while trying to figure out who the New Machine Jihad is and how they have managed to take complete control of the Metrozone and all it's inhabitants. Help rides along in the form of the apathetic Police Detective Harry Chain and Madeleine, a Catholic nun trained by the Order of Joan as a very effective killing machine. 

The Pizdets
I will warn you now, these books are relentless, non-stop action. Each only takes place over the course of a few days but Morden packs so much in to each you barely get any time to pause. Petrovich certainly doesn't, from the second he grabs Sonja Oshicora's hand in Equations of Life till the final page in book three he is subjected to every type of injury, pain and hurt imaginable. And he just carries on through it all with a single mindedness thats really quite endearing. Even though he's hardly a good guy (at one point he shoots a street kid in the foot, there's logic to it but it's not the behavior of your average hero) I found myself completely on his side throughout the whole three books. He's smart, in a way a
lot of characters aren't these days, he figures out solutions and enemies way before I did and better then that, his solutions to are almost always exactly the right ones. 

You know in those war movies where there's always that shouty American General demanding the President nuke all sons of bitches that so much as look at him funny? Petrovitch is that scientist guy who always comes through at the last minute with that technologically amazing alternative that saves everybody from sprouting extra radioactive limbs. He's like Jeff Goldblum in Independence Day, but very sweary, and Russian. Actually the constant Russian swearing was one of the things I loved bout Petrovitch, after reading all three books I'm having a difficult time not yelling yobany stos! every time I stub a toe or spill some coffee.

"'Why didn't the bastard ment tell me this in the hospital?' 
Petrovitch bent down to scoop up the crumpled form, and laboriously started to flatten out the creases over his knee.

'I'm sure he had his reasons. By the way, this is church. I'd appreciate you not swearing in it.'

Petrovitch considered his options. If the priest didn't hold to turning the other cheek, hitting him might end badly. But just skulking off didn't strike him as being appropriate either. 'Past' zakroi, podonok.'

Though the words were incomprehensible, his sentiment was resonant in his delivery. Father John's face grew hard, and he took a step forward. 'Get out.'"

There's a veritable zoo of amazing secondary characters as well, most who join Petrovitch's merry little band in the second book. And pretty much all women, brilliant, hardcore, indispensable women who are the only reasons he manages to survive an apocalypse caused by a computer, a war with a humongous army of violent barbarians (outies) and an international pissing contest with a puritanical America. He may have all the ideas and plans but these ladies are the ones who put them in to action and drag his weak arse out of danger whenever he manages to wander in to the line of fire. There's Valentina, a true Soviet communist to her red core and demolitions expert. Lucy, the schoolgirl found hiding in a bathtub from the outies who saves his life more than once. And of course Madeleine, the amazonian, Catholic trained bodyguard who does things to Petrovitch's synthetic heart that has nothing to do with the fact it's constantly malfunctioning. I adored all of these guys, they were all useful fully realised people, no extra bits of skirt who are only good for the hero to perv over in these stories, and I loved Morden for that. Also any writer that includes sly nods to The Princess Bride, Eddie Izzard and Zero Wing in their books is a-ok with me.

If you're looking for something clever, fast paced and exhilarating then you can't do much better than these three books. In Communist Russia book reads you.