Friday, 12 February 2016

Book Review: The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward

In this heartrending and poignant novel, award-winning author Amanda Eyre Ward tells the story of Alice Conroe, a forty year old Texas barbecue owner who has the perfect life, except she and her husband long for a child. Unable to conceive, she’s trying desperately to adopt but her destiny is quickly altered by a young woman she’s never met.

Fearless thirteen-year-old Carla Trujilio is being raised by her grandmother in Honduras along with her four year old twin brothers. Her mother is sending money home from Texas where she’s trying to make a better life for her family, but she only has enough to bring one son to her. When Carla’s grandmother dies, Carla decides to take her fate into her own hands and embarks on a dangerous journey across the border with Junior, the twin left behind.

Two powerful journeys intersecting at a pivotal moment in time: Alice and Carla’s lives will be forever and profoundly changed. Heartbreaking, emotional, and arresting, this novel is about finding the courage to trail blaze your own path in life with faith, hope and love, no matter the struggle or the tragedy
The Same Sky is a deeply affecting novel about two people from very different backgrounds. I wasn't really sure what to expect from this book. When I was offered the chance to read it I accepted without knowing anything about it. The blurb didn't really give too much away so I got stuck in. The book is short and easy to get through, I got through the pages quickly even with the heavy subject matters the book tackles.

I really like what Amanda Eyre Ward has done with this book. The story is about Carla, a South American girl living in the slums desperate to join her mother in America. And Alice an American woman who has survived cancer but is unable to have the one thing she wants, a child. Ward was not scared to tackle tough subjects in this book. Poverty, addiction, rape, loss of a child and cancer are all a feature of this novel. It would have been easy for the writer to really focus on these things and fill this book full of angst but she didn't. I thought all of these horrible subject matters were treated with great respect.

I really liked Ward's writing, it was easy to read and packed full of emotion. I do think she could have gone a little deeper into the characters feelings at times. The story was well told but there were a few things that were not concluded like Alice and Jake's marital problems. I really liked how this book came together at the end, it was a nice conclusion to this book, however, I do think the ending was a little hasty, a bit more time could have been spent on it.

The character's were great they were both such strong females which were fantastic. Carla was a brilliant character her inner strength and determination were ferocious. She made tough decisions, often out of desperation but she owned everything. There was a sad air of acceptance about her like she knew not to expect more from her life which was so sad. It was the complete opposite of Alice, who refused to accept what life had thrown at her. Alice was the less likeable of the two there were times where she and her husband came across as a little petulant. I don't know if that is because they really were petulant or because the reader is forced to compare their life to Carla's, which was a lot more harrowing. That is not to say that Alice's problems are less heartbreaking. What I loved about both characters was their refusal to stop fighting, it was inspiring to read about two women with such inner strength.

The Same Sky is a well-rounded book with some great characters. It is not a perfect book but it is a short read that is well worth your time.


3 stars

Find out more

Published February 4th 2016 by Blackfriars
A free copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.  Image courtesy of Goodreads.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Book Review: The 100 Society by Carla Spradbery

For sixth-form student Grace Becker, The 100 Society is more than just a game; it's an obsession. Having convinced her five friends at Clifton Academy to see it through to the end, Grace will stop at nothing to carry out the rules of the game: tagging 100 locations around the city. With each step closer to the 100-mark they get, the higher the stakes become. But when the group catches the attention of a menacing stalker - the Reaper - he seems intent on exposing their illegal game, tormenting Grace with anonymous threats and branding their dormitory doors with his ominous tag.

As the once tight-knit group slowly unravels, torn apart by doubt and the death of a student, they no longer know who to trust.

With time running out, Grace must unmask the Reaper before he destroys everything she cares about for ever...
I kinda feel like this book has been given a bit of a raw deal. I have read a lot of reviews for The 100 Society and I can't help but feel that maybe it has been a little misunderstood. Don't get me wrong I completely understand what a lot of the reviewers had to see. This book wasn't perfect and I didn't love it but I did like it a lot more than others. The beauty of not only books, but the arts in general is that each individual piece of work can mean different things to different people. For others this book didn't work, and that's fine. But I saw it a different way, I saw it as a homage to the horror movies of my teens. It reminded me of days gone by, it bought back happy memories and because of that I can't hate this book.

When I was a teen the slasher horror movie genre was at its peak. I remember nervously going over to friends house for sleep overs and watching movies like Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legends. We used to swoon over Skeet Ulrich, Ryan Philipe and Jared Leto and we used to pretend that watching these movies didn't scare us at all. Of course we were all terrified, I used to go home the next day exhausted after a sleepless night. A night spent believing that every small sound, every creek of a floor board or rustling of branches outside was a killer coming to get me. These movies were a part of me teen years and I love them. Sure, they had more plot holes than a sieve, dumb characters who could never make a smart decision and questionable messages about girls who have sex. But still I liked them.

The 100 Society reminded me so much of those movies. Just with less plot holes and a more teen friendly tone. Whilst I will admit that this book had its problems I still had a really good time reading it.

So, I will start with the things I liked. I thought the writing was pretty good. I enjoyed Carla Spradbery's world building, I found it easy to slip into the book. The plot was well thought out and well executed. Normally I am freakishly good at figuring out who the bad guy is in books and movies and although I did figure out who it was this time it took me a little longer than usual and the motivation of the killer only became clear to me at the end. I thought Spradbery did a good job of building the creepiness. The intensity built up through the book and came to a crashing end during the last quarter making it the strongest section of the book. Also, I want to thank Carla Spradbery for having the courage to terrify, maim and kill a majority of the characters in this book. To many time YA authors opt for something a little softer. There is none of that here.

All that being said it had the potential to be even darker and there were times when the story dragged a little bit. These tended to be the moments when the teen angst took over from the horror. Characters were another issue. Grace was ok, I neither loved nor hated her. She wasn't completely stupid but she wasn't bursting with personality either. Trick was my favourite character, he had a little more depth than the others who fell flat for me. I felt like I didn't know them enough to invest in them, which led me to not care enough when the bad stuff happened to them. What didn't help was the love triangle. It was important to the plot, so I didn't resent it being there but it felt underdeveloped.

The 100 Society has its problems and it is far from perfect but there were aspects of it that I really enjoyed and on the whole I liked it. I hope to read more from Carla Spradbery in the future.

3 stars

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Published September 4th 2014 by Hodder Children's Books
A free copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.  Image courtesy of Goodreads.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Book Review: Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers

In the kingdom of Lovero, nine rival Families of assassins lawfully kill people for a price. As a highly skilled member of one of these powerful clans, seventeen-year-old Lea Saldana has always trusted in the strength of her Family. Until she awakens to find them murdered and her home in flames. The Da Vias, the Saldanas’ biggest enemy, must be responsible—and Lea should have seen it coming. But her secret relationship with the Da Vias’ son, Val, has clouded her otherwise killer instinct—and given the Da Vias more reason than ever to take her Family down.

Racked with guilt and shattered over Val’s probable betrayal, Lea sets out to even the score, with her heart set on retaliation and only one thought clear in her mind: make the Da Vias pay.

With shades of The Godfather and Romeo and Juliet, this richly imagined fantasy from debut author Sarah Ahiers is a story of love, lies, and the ultimate vengeance.
I am very conflicted about Assassin's Heart. I am giving it four stars but it could have easily been five, yet I nearly gave it a three.

There was a lot about this book I liked. It is the most original novel I have read in years. Sure, there are plenty of books out there about assassins, especially in the YA bracket, but I haven't come across one quite like this. I was blown away by Ahiers imagination. The creation of the cities, religion and culture of her fantasy world was quite simply outstanding. The story and writing were rich with originality. I honestly do not think I will come across another book to match it for some time.

Ahiers is a truly creative writer. Everything in this book had purpose, all the information given to the reader was important in some way. The story was built well, it was never boring and never rushed. On the whole it was a very well put together book.

The reason I nearly gave this book a three star rating was the main character Lea. I didn't like her. Truthfully, I think Lea is not a character you are supposed to like, not straight away anyway. She goes on a journey and she changes as the book goes on. You could really see the difference in her from the beginning of the book to the end. I have no problem with that, I like it when a character grows, the issue in this book is that the change takes too long. For at least 75% of this book I disliked Lea. That is just far too long.

For three quarters of the book Lea is borderline unbearable. Sure, she is a kick ass assassin and that is all kinds of cool, but she is also a snob who looks down on people who do not have as much as she does. She lacks personality, I kind of get it, something horrible has happened to her, she seeks revenge but her one track mind was an annoyance and it prevented the reader from getting to know her. If I had a pound for every time I read the words 'all that mattered was killing the Da Vias,' or some variation of that, I would be a lot better off than I am now. Honestly, she sounded like a broken record and it was too much. Her single mindedness also leads her to become selfish. She focuses on her goal so much that she loses sight of the cost that could come with achieving it. She doesn't care about the consequences of her actions and drags others into her plot without thinking of the risk it poses to their life's.

Luckily, as I said, she isn't like this the whole time. I loved her towards the end of this book. She was still kick ass but she lost the snobbishness, she started to see things differently, she started to care, she fell in love and it changed everything. I just wish the change had come a little sooner.

Les was a completely different story. I loved him from the beginning until the end. Sweet, loyal and kind he is the exact opposite of Lea. He was patient with her, he knew when to be soft and when to push back. He never belittled her, never thought he knew best. He just supported her, and learnt from her and she, in turn, learnt from him, even if she didn't want to.

The romance was wonderful. It was beautifully built and surprisingly adult. It felt real and it got under my skin in a way few YA romances have managed. There was no teen drama, no romantic angst. It was just two people slowly, without really realising it, falling in love. I adored it.

Assassin's Heart is not perfect but it came pretty close. Sarah Ahiers knows what she is doing, she is on my watch list and I will wait eagerly for her next book.

4 stars

Find out more

Assassin's Heart book one.  Published February 2nd 2016 by HarperTeen.
A free book was provided in exchange for an honest review.  Image courtesy of Goodreads.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Book Review: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny by Wang Dulu and Justin Hill

Another life-altering quest, another struggle between honor and lust for power, another generation of warriors forging alliances and enmities. The adventure, romance, and artistry of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon continues in this novelized companion to the first ever Netflix debut film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny based on the novel by Wang Dulu.

Seventeen years after the legendary fighter Mubai dies protecting the world-conquering sword The Green Destiny, four great warriors are called together to guard the formidable weapon once more. The forces surrounding the sword irrevocably altered the life of Shulien, Mubai’s lover, but seventeen years later she is still honor-bound to defend the blade from the power-hungry warlord Hades Dai. The young fighters Wei-fang and Snow Vase, switched at birth, also have heritages and inheritances that inextricably link them to both each other and the fate of the sword. And Silent Wolf, Shulien’s former fiancĂ©, returns from presumed death to thwart Hades Dai—and rekindle an emotionally isolated Shulien’s feelings.

Jam-packed with all the hallmarks of an epic adventure—sacrifice, battles, betrayal, vengeance, redemption, and destiny—this saga also explores the deeper meaning of true heroism and virtue. As Wei-fang and Snow Vase search for identity and forge their places in the world of warriors and heroes, Shu-lien and Silent Wolf struggle to reconcile both the traditions and heartbreak of the past with a fragile hope for the future.
I was just a teenager when I first saw the movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.  I had never seen a film like it before and it captured my imagination and gave me a new found respect for foreign cinema.  It has been about sixteen years since Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon came out in British cinemas and now it is back in a big way with a new film called Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny coming out on Netflix in February.  Alongside the film release, we are also being treated to the book written by Wang Dulu and Booker Prize nominee Justin Hill.
I have never read a book like this one before.  It is strange to read something completely new which features characters I know well from somewhere else.  It was great to see what happened to some of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon's best loved and most iconic characters.  Both Shulien and Jiaolong are back in this sequel and there is also a host of brand new characters as well. 
For the most part, I liked Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of destiny.  I wanted to love it but it didn't grip me as much as I would have liked.  I thought the storyline was good and I enjoyed how everything came together.  It was poetic in some places and epic in others, and it was all brought to vivid life with the writing. 
It is the writing that comes out on top.  Everything from the scenery to the epic battles is beautifully written.  Great care has been taken to set a tone for this book and stick with it all the way through. I found all the characters to be well-rounded and interesting.  Out of all the characters, it is Shulien who carried most of the emotional weight.  Much like her role in the movie, she is forced to shelve her own needs in order to carry out her duty.  The moments where she looks back at her life and what she has lost are the most poignant of the whole book.
However, there were times where this book managed to bore me.  It was not always an easy read and sometimes I found myself getting distracted.  There are just moments where this all felt a little slow and I wanted a little more character to the book.  I think it all comes down to taste, as a whole this book didn't always work for me but that is not through a lack of talent on the author's part.
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny is a beautifully constructed book with some stunning writing.  It just could have used a little more pace at times.

3 stars

Find out more

Expected publication: January 26th 2016 by Weinstein Books
A free copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review. Image courtesy of Goodreads.


Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Book Review: Altered by Marnee Blake

When "normal" ends, survival begins...
The sickness came on suddenly and violently. When it was done, waitress Blue Michaels was different in a really strange way. And the entire town of Glory was dead...except for her.

Only that's not exactly true. A handful of people made it, including U.S. Army Specialist Seth Campbell, who was caught in the wrong town at the worst time. He's fierce and protective, and way too good-looking. As much as they need a leader—as much as Blue wants to trust him—there are too many questions and not enough time for answers. Now they are hunted. But what their pursuers don't know is each of them has strange new powers. And they'll use their "gifts" to matter who stands in their way.
I am a big fan of the Science Fiction genre so when I was offered the chance to read Marnee Blake's New Adult Sci-Fi book, Altered I jumped at the chance.  I dived straight in and things started out well.  A deadly virus sweeps through a small American town leaving the inhabitants dead.  Only a handful of people who catch the virus survive.  After hours of pain and suffering, they wake up to find that they are not only alive but have developed superhuman powers.  The first chapter brought all of this to life in a very cool and vivid way but it was not to last.  The more I got into this book the more my original excitement about it fizzled away.
I really wanted to like this one, I truly did, but, in the end, I didn't like it at all.  I had several fairly substantial problems with it.  Firstly, I couldn't shake the feeling that the author didn't really know what she wanted this book to be.  It jumps between action, Science Fiction, emotional drama and romance at a dizzying speed.  I do not believe that books should be put in one genre, sometimes blurred lines are good but there has to be some kind of flow and that was distinctly lacking in Altered.  This jumping around led to me feeling like there was no substance to either the characters or the plot.  There are a fair few characters in this book and I felt like I knew none of them.  They felt more like shadowy stereotypes than real fleshy characters.  There was no personality, no individuality and nothing for me to relate to in any of them.
I wasn't particularly fond of the writing either.  It is fine to have unrealistic aspects of your book, it is Science Fiction after all, but for it to work the creator has to be able to sell it.  They have to find a way to make their audience suspend belief.  Marnee Blake couldn't do that for me. The descriptions of the powers and the action sequences did not work at all.  I found them awkward and at times bizarre.
There were some good ideas here and I do admire Marnee Black for taking a massive swing at it, but something was lost in translation and it fell short of my expectations.

2 star

Find out more:

Published December 28th 2015 by Entangled: Embrace.
A free copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.  Image courtesy of Goodreads.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Book Review: The Becoming by Jeanne C. Stein

My name is Anna Strong. I am a vampire. How I became one is the reason for this story. I tell it all the way it happened. It may not be what you expect.

She's a bounty hunter--tough, beautiful, and trained for the unexpected. Until the night she's attacked and left closer to death than she can imagine. She awakens to an indoctrination into a dark new world where vampires walk among us. But this time, a tight grip on a .38 won't stop what she's hunting for.

Existing between the worlds of the living and the dead, Anna is torn by her love for two very different men. Max, a DEA agent, all too human, and vulnerable. And Avery, a Night Watcher who's joined Anna in pursuit of the rogue vampire who changed her life that terrifying night. Now, as her two worlds collide, fate plunges Anna into the ultimate battle between good and evil where survival is not just for the living...
I have recently started to read the Elemental Assassin series by Jennifer Estep. So far I love the series and it has managed to re-kindle my interest in Urban Fantasy. I decided to get The Becoming hoping that I would enjoy it as much as the Elemental Assassin books, but unfortunately it was not to be and I ended up not liking this one at all.

From the beginning it was clear that I was going to have multiple problems with this one. I didn't like the style of the writing, present tense never really works for me. So from the word go I struggled to feel comfortable reading this one.

Next came the whole rape/not rape thing which was a huge issue for me. Anna is beaten and raped by a vampire but because he bites her her body responds to him. Throughout the rest of the book the idea that she was raped is forgotten, instead the writer and the characters insist she was a willing participant. No, no, no. He beat he so bad she nearly died and he forced himself upon her against her wishes. That is rape.

Things don't get better from there. Anna has a boyfriend called Max who she seems to forget about when Avery comes along. She cheats on Max. A lot. There are a few moments where she feels a bit guilty about it but she makes herself feel better by having sex with Avery again. All of her excuses are frankly bullshit.

Anna isn't a great character at all. I think I am suppose to find her cool and edgy but I actually think she is a bit of a dick. She has zero personality and is also pretty dumb so she really doesn't have much going for her. Anna is so stupid that she cannot figure out who the bad guy is even when she is practically told.

The Becoming really was not for me. I didn't find it well written, appealing or interesting. I have the next book in the series. I really hope it is an improvement on this one.

2 Stars

Find out more:

Anna Strong Chronicles book 1, Published November 28th 2006 by Ace.
Image courtesy of Goodreads.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Book Review: Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan

When Apple's mother returns after eleven years away, Apple feels whole again. But just like the stormy Christmas Eve when she left, her mother's homecoming is bittersweet. It's only when Apple meets someone more lost than she is that she begins to see things as they really are.

A story about sad endings.
A story about happy beginnings.
A story to make you realise who is special.
Sarah Crossan is an author I know quite well, I've read her Breathe series and I even met her once but Apple and Rain is the first contemporary book of hers that I have read. I don't really know what I was expecting from this, the description sounded painful and I got the impression that this book would be a hard read. The two books in the Breathe series were not much help in determining what to expect from Apple and Rain. They are dystopia books full of rich world building, they could not be more different than Apple and Rain. In the end Apple and Rain turned out to be nothing like I expected and I found it quite different from other books I have read. It was realistic, touching and took me by surprise with its intelligence.

The writing in Apple and Rain is great, the main character Apple is quite young, only 13, and Crossan managed to find her voice with little effort. There was nothing over the top about this book, no dramatics, no heavy descriptions. Instead it focused on the emotions of a child as she went through some difficult times.

The storyline itself was heart breaking, I really felt for both Apple and Rain. This is a book about family and friendship, it is a coming of age story about sisters who are both lost. Mostly I think this is a book about growing up and how painful that process can be. I loved what Crossan did with the poetry theme that ran through the book, how Apple was inspired by a good teacher and a growing love of literature. I feel like a lot of thought was put into this book, it was lean and emotional without ever going to far.

The characters were good, they were all layered and full of personality. I didn't love nor hate any of them. I am not sure if that was the author's intention but I felt like it worked well. All of the characters are very real, they all have good and bad things about them. Each one at some point annoyed me and endeared themselves to me. Every character plays their part but it is the relationship between Apple and Rain that had all the impact in this book. This was a beautiful relationship full of ups and downs between very lost sisters. Crossan treated every aspect of not only this relationship but all the other issues in the book with utmost respect.

Although I didn't fall in love with this book, (to be honest it is not my kind of thing) I would still recommend it to young adult and adult readers. Sarah Crossan seriously impressed me with this novel and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

4 stars

Find out more:

Published 2015 by Bloomsbury Publishing.
A free copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.  Image courtesy of Goodreads.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Book Review: Home Sweet Home by Candis Terry

Army Ranger Lieutenant Aiden Marshall fought in some of the most hellish corners on earth and survived. Those closest to him, did not. When he returns home to Sweet, Texas, he believes he's broken and has lost everything—including his soul. The only fair thing he can do to the woman who's patiently waited for him to come home is tell her to move on with her life—without him.

Sassy waitress Paige Walker has no intention of walking away from the man of her dreams. He gave his all for his country and served with honor. Now it's time to pull him from the darkness and give him hope. With a heap of love, the help of the entire town, and a tail-wagging companion, Paige makes sure her hero knows there's no place like home sweet home.
I have a soft spot for military romances. I tend to enjoy them more than other romance sub-genres so I was really looking forward to reading this novella. This is not the first time I've come across Candis Terry's work. A few years back I read Anything but Sweet, a full length novel by the author which I adored.

I liked Anything but Sweet because of it's strong characters and Terry's sound writing and I ended up liking Home Sweet Home for exactly the same reasons.

I really like Candis Terry's style of writing. Home Sweet Home was easy to read but was not lacking in description or world building. It never felt rushed which is a rarity for a novella. Candis Terry structured the story perfectly giving the reader a full story without cramming to much into the short 144 pages.

In terms of story Home Sweet Home is nothing new. It is about a Army Ranger struggling to come to terms with all he has seen and dealt with at war, and the woman he left behind. Candis Terry manages to keep this from being repetitive with her writing and characters.

Aiden and Paige are enjoyable to read. Aiden is damaged, hurt and very unsure of what he wants. He is a realy sweet guy with a heart of gold. Frankly he never stood a chance going up against Paige. Out of the two she has the most personality. This is a woman who knows what she wants and sets about getting it. She is fiery, open and patient with Aiden who is very much the softer of the two.

Together they are great, the chemistry between the two sizzles away. Sometimes books where the two main characters are already in a relationship with each other or have a history fall a little flat for me but Terry handles the romance well. This is a story about two people who are very much in love finding their way back to one another after war pulled them apart.

Home Sweet Home is a short, touching and sweet novella. I really enjoyed it and will definitely be reading more from Candis Terry in the future.

3 stars

Find out more:

Sweet, Texas book 0.5.  Published May 19th 2015 by Avon Impulse.  A free copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.  Image courtesy of Goodreads.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Book Review: The Asylum for Fairy Tale Creatures by Sebastian Gregory

Once upon a nightmare…

Long ago, in a land where imagination meets the darkest nightmares, they built the asylum. Surrounded by a forest of thorns, it holds the most twisted minds in the fairy tale kingdom: a terrible collection of evil creatures and forgotten souls. Imprisoned within its walls, they are doomed to spend forever after telling their tales… and serving as a warning to others.

Now, you are invited to accompany Blood Red Riding Hood into the depths of this strange place – where you will meet its even stranger inhabitants. But be warned: walls this thick were built to withstand the darkest magic… so once you’re inside, you might just find yourself living horribly ever after… and wishing you were indeed in a land far, far away.
Sometimes I like to read something a bit dark and horrific. I like to be spooked, to be made to feel eerily uncomfortable. I like it when the hairs creep up on the back on my neck and I start to look at the darker corners of my room a little more closely. That was what I was in the mood for when I picked up The Asylum For Fairy Tale Creatures by Sebastian Gregory. It was a book that promised all of the above, that promised a dark twist on the classic fairy tales from my youth. The book delivered on some of those promises. It was grim and full of horror, in parts gross and in others creepy. But unfortunately somewhere along the road the execution of this book failed and instead of being terrified I ended up a bit bored.

I really liked the idea of this story, of taking fairy tales and turning them into horror. Sebastian Gregory did a good job of making this book dark and scary, just like I wanted. However, there were issues with the writing, a few too many mistakes to ignore. I won't judge too harshly because my copy of this book is an advances readers copy that maybe had formatting errors or hadn't been double checked yet. I just hope the mistakes didn't make it into the final copy of the book.

The main problem for this book is its lack of structure and flow. It jumped around a lot and I was never very certain if this was one story, a collection of stories or something in-between. Either way the style didn't fit with me and the lack of flow or direction ended up boring me a little and I struggled through it.

There are some nice ideas in this book and patches of great horror writing but it didn't come together into a coherent package.

2 stars

Find out more

Published June 27th 2014 by Carina.  A free copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.  Image courtesy of Goodreads.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Book Review: Web of Lies by Jennifer Estep

Curiosity is definitely going to get me dead one of these days. Probably real soon.

I'm Gin Blanco.

You might know me as the Spider, the most feared assassin in the South. I’m retired now, but trouble still has a way of finding me. Like the other day when two punks tried to rob my popular barbecue joint, the Pork Pit. Then there was the barrage of gunfire on the restaurant. Only, for once, those kill shots weren’t aimed at me. They were meant for Violet Fox. Ever since I agreed to help Violet and her grandfather protect their property from an evil coalmining tycoon, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m really retired. So is Detective Donovan Caine. The only honest cop in Ashland is having a real hard time reconciling his attraction to me with his Boy Scout mentality. And I can barely keep my hands off his sexy body. What can I say? I’m a Stone elemental with a little Ice magic thrown in, but my heart isn’t made of solid rock. Luckily, Gin Blanco always gets her man . . . dead or alive.
The Elemental Assassin series by Jennifer Estep is fast turning into one of my favourite Urban Fantasy book series. I loved Spider's Bite, the first book in the series and I enjoyed its follow up, Web of Lies just as much. Jennifer Estep has created a dynamic and interesting world packed full of characters you can't help falling in love with.

One of the things I love about this series is Jennifer Estep's writing. She knows how to weave a good story and keep the reader entertained. She is creative and her writing is full of atmosphere but it is also easy to read. There have been some negative things said about Estep's tendency to reiterate things a little too often and I have to say I agree. This book would have been a lot shorter if she didn't keep repeating herself. By this point readers know what the Pork Pit looks like, they know that Finn likes Chicory Coffee and that he and Gin slept together when they were younger. I have already started reading book three and everything is repeated again in that book. This repetition is my only complaint about the book and this series as a whole.

Plot wise I found Web of Lies as entertaining at Spider's Bite. There was not as much going on but it had a little bit more depth which made up for it. There were some really interesting parts and I like where the story is going and the growth Gin is making.

What really makes this series so great is its characters. I love Gin, she is my kind of girl. She is tough, smart but capable of feeling sympathy. She is hard on the outside and gooey soft in the middle. I think I liked her in Web of Lies more than in Spider's Bite. She faces some real challenges in this book she feels slightly betrayed by Fletcher the man she saw as a father, she has learnt that the sister she thought was dead is alive and well, and she has man problems in the form of Donovan Caine. Things are not looking great for Gin but she manages to hold herself with dignity despite all of that.

Donovan Caine is another complex character. Most reviewers do not seem to like him very much and I can understand that but I saw him a little differently. I really quite admired Donovan Caine. He has confusing and powerful feelings for Gin, he wants her as much as she wants him but his morals cannot let him be with a criminal, with a woman who takes life without remorse. His beliefs crush the romance giving it no chance at all but I can't help but think he done the right thing by leaving Gin behind. I like him for staying true to himself and what he believes in.

Web of Lies is a great addition to the Elemental Assassins series. I liked it a lot and I've already moved on to book three. I can't wait to see where this series goes in the future.

3 stars

Find out more

Web Of Lies by Jennifer Estep, Elemental Assassin book 2, Published May 25th 2010 by Pocket Books.
Image courtesy of Goodreads.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Book Review: Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep

My name is Gin, and I kill people.

They call me the Spider. I'm the most feared assassin in the South — when I'm not busy at the Pork Pit cooking up the best barbecue in Ashland. As a Stone elemental, I can hear everything from the whispers of the gravel beneath my feet to the vibrations of the soaring Appalachian Mountains above me. My Ice magic also comes in handy for making the occasional knife. But I don't use my powers on the job unless I absolutely have to. Call it professional pride.

Now that a ruthless Air elemental has double-crossed me and killed my handler, I'm out for revenge. And I'll exterminate anyone who gets in my way — good or bad. I may look hot, but I'm still one of the bad guys. Which is why I'm in trouble, since irresistibly rugged Detective Donovan Caine has agreed to help me. The last thing this coldhearted killer needs when I'm battling a magic more powerful than my own is a sexy distraction... especially when Donovan wants me dead just as much as the enemy.
Finally! After what has felt like months I have managed to find an urban fantasy/romance book that I loved. I enjoy romance books a lot but recently they have not been doing much for me. Then Spider's Bite came along and my dry spell is fixed. It was just what I was looking for. I came very close to giving this book those elusive five stars but there was a couple of things that held me back, (getting five stars from me is difficult stuff.)

I knew I was onto a winner from the first page. Jennifer Estep writes in a style that suits my taste. Spider's Bite was humorous and dark, it's characters were layered and blunt. I cannot fault her writing, I found it engaging, and I cannot fault the plot which I found wickedly entertaining.

The characters were brilliant. I loved Gin, she is a straight talking bad ass with an attitude problem. My kind of girl. Gin is an assassin and she loves what she does. There is no conflict or guilt over what she has done. She kills people for a living and doesn't give a shit. I like that Estep took this approach, it would have been so easy to try and make Gin a nicer person by having her be full of angst and guilt. She also isn't afraid of sex, or of wanting sex. I like that too. In my opinion the romance genre could do with a few more Gin's.

The other characters were great too. Finn was awesome, he was cocky and arrogant but I liked it. It suited him and I found him endearing. Donovan was also great, he is probably the only person in the whole book whose morals are in perfect working order. This causes him issues when it comes to Gin, he despises her but he also wants her. I found that dynamic interesting but felt he was maybe being a little to stubborn at times.

I liked the romance between Gin and Donovan but I didn't love it. As individuals they were great, Gin especially, but together it didn't quite work for me. There was lots of chemistry, but I couldn't get behind it. I think my issue is that I can never see this relationship working, Donovan is never going to get over the fact that she is a killer and that fact that she feels no guilt about it. His morals are never going to let him be with her fully, even if he fell in love with her. I think Gin needs someone who can challenge her, who can meet her half way, she needs someone who wouldn't be ashamed of their relationship.

Apart from the romance this book was just what I was looking for and I fell in love with it. I am moving onto the next book in the series straight away and I cannot wait to see where Estep takes Gin next.

4 stars

Find out more

Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep.  Book one in the Elemental Assassin series.  Published January 26th 2010 by Pocket Books
Image courtesy of Goodreads.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

It is that time of year again!

Yes Christmas is here.
I will be taking a blogging break over the holidays and will be back at the beginning of the new year.
I want to wish you all a very merry Christmas.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Book Review: Unfixable by Tessa Bailey

Willa Peet isn’t interested in love. She’s been there, done that, and has the shattered heart to prove it. Ready to shake the breakup, she heads to Dublin, Ireland. But there’s a problem. A dark-haired, blue-eyed problem with a bad attitude that rivals her own. And he’s not doling out friendly Irish welcomes.

Shane Claymore just wants to race. The death of his father forced him off the Formula One circuit, but he’s only staying in Dublin long enough to sell the Claymore Inn and get things in order for his mother and younger sister. He never expected the sarcastic American girl staying at the inn to make him question everything.

But even as Willa and Shane’s fiery natures draw them together, their pasts threaten to rip them apart. Can Shane give up racing to be with the woman he loves, or will Willa’s quest to resurrect the tough-talking, no-shit-taking girl she used to be destroy any hope of a future together?
Unfixable is not normally the type of book I like. The New Adult genre and me have not really hit it off, I can count the number of New Adult books I have liked on one hand. I don't really get it if I am honest, they are just like adult romances but with more angsty drama and I am not really a big fan of angst especially if it is over done which appears to be a must for New Adult. One look at the description for Unfixable and I was sure I was going to hate it. A doomed romance between a trapped boy and a girl who hates herself, sounds like pure angst to me. No, I should not have liked Unfixable. Yet somehow this book got under my skin and I couldn't put it down and I fell in love with it.

I have only read one Tessa Bailey book before this. I gave His Risk to Take three stars but I struggle to remember anything about it. Even looking back over the blurb and my review I am coming up blank. Unfixable will not be as unforgettable. Tessa Bailey really did a good job of writing this book, everything was thought out, the characters, storyline and relationships were all structured and well built and the writing was descriptive. Reading Unfixable was easy, I picked it up and within moments I was lost in the story. I felt maybe that the ending was a bit rushed like Bailey realised the was running out of room but that's the only complaint I have.

What I really enjoyed about Unfixable was it's storyline. Sure there was drama but for the most part it was believable. For me this was more than a romance, it was almost like a coming of age novel, the characters take a journey of personal discovery along side the romance. Tessa Bailey managed to sneak a little bit of everything into Unfixable, it was at times happy and sad, it made me laugh, it filled me with wonder and at times despair. It was a well balanced book full of ups and downs, it flowed well and I never found myself bored with it.

Tessa Bailey's writing and Unfixable's story line both helped to make this book great, but what made me fall in love with this book was it's characters. Shane was a tempestuous man, he was stubborn and angry but behind that there was a guy that truly cared, that didn't know how to go about doing the right thing. He was very much a secondary character to Willa but that didn't make him less important. Shane was the only one who could and would challenge Willa's perception of the world and herself. I liked Shane a lot but it was Willa that truly made this book a joy to read. I fell in love with this girl from the beginning, and I related to her in quite a few ways. Willa does not have the best opinion of herself, she feels like she is broken and unfixable but she never wallows in self pity, she wants to live and to love but she doesn't know how. I found her honest and real, she's had it tough but is determined to make it through. It is rare to come across a new adult character with this much baggage and not have them be an angsty, dramatic mess. Sure, Willa was not perfect, she made mistakes but she owned them. Self pity really wasn't her style and I loved her for that.

The romance was fantastic. The chemistry between Willa and Shane sizzled and jumped off the pages. They didn't fall into bed quickly and the sexual tension Bailey created was almost unbearable. Sometimes books heavy with sexual tension can fall flat once the characters give in but not Unfixable. Tessa Bailey kept the tension high and I must say that she sure knows how to write a sex scene. This book is seriously hot, none of the love making was casual, it meant something to these characters which made it even hotter. Out side of the physical the romance still worked, animosity turned to lust, lust to respect and respect to love. These characters learn to love each other and themselves, they learn that it is ok to lean on others when you need to, that it is ok to share your bad thoughts and your good ones, your hopes and your fears. Everything about the romantic aspect of this book worked for me, I truly have nothing negative to say about it.

Unfixable was like an unexpected gift. It has made me look into the new adult genre again, and has introduced me to an author that I cannot wait to read more from. It was more than I thought it could be and I am so very glad I've read it.

4 stars


Find out more:

Unfixable by Tessa Bailey.  Published April 14th 2014 by Entangled Publishing (Embrace)
A free copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.  Image courtesy of Goodreads.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Book Review: The Art Of Christmas by Jane Lovering

What if the memories of Christmas past were getting in the way of Christmas future?

It’s been nearly two years since Harriet lost Jonno, but she’s finally decided that it’s time to celebrate Christmas again.

Then she finds a stash of graphic novels belonging to her comic book-loving husband in the attic, and suddenly her world is turned upside down once more.

With the help of eccentric comic book dealer Kell Foxton, she discovers that the comics collected by Jonno are not only extremely valuable, but also hold the key to his secret life – a life that throws Harriet’s entire marriage and every memory she has of her husband into question.

As Harriet grows closer to Kell, she begins to feel like she could learn to love Christmas again – but first, she needs to know the truth.
I didn’t really expect much from The Art of Christmas. It is a short Christmas read that caught my eye because of its festive theme. I had never heard of Jane Lovering before so I didn’t really have much to go on. I had a feeling it might fall flat, as so many short Christmas romances do, but I ended up pleasantly surprised. I was expecting a bit of fluff but what I got was a novella full of depth and emotion. The Art of Christmas was a story where the author was not fearful of letting the romance take a back seat, a story where the characters and their growth were centre stage.

The Art of Christmas was a charming novella. Jane Lovering has created a lovely story and her writing was good too. This book wasn’t really about romance or the holidays, they played their part but it wasn’t what the bulk of this book was. It was about moving on; learning to trust not just people but yourself again when you fear your judgement has failed you. The Art of Christmas was a gently written novella that had not only depth but also quite a few well-placed laughs.

The characters were excellent. Harriet was at that point in her grief where she was ready to start moving on but wasn’t sure how to go about it. She had been on her own for almost two years and could see that her life was beginning to lose purpose. I thought she was very strong and brave. She faced everything that came at her in a cool and calm manner and when she found someone she liked she didn’t ruin it with a false sense of guilt.

Kell was also marvellous. He was complete geek and a little socially awkward. He was lonely and wasn’t scared to admit it which was nice. So often in these books the men try to act so tough but Kell wasn’t afraid of looking weak or being honest. I found him and his dog, Frodo, utterly charming and completely endearing. At times they were both hilariously funny which was excellent, as it bought a fun atmosphere to the story. It was clear that Kell was utterly mesmerized by Harriet but he knew she had stuff to sort through. He let her know his interest but didn’t push her, which is another reason to love him.

The Art of Christmas was a lovely holiday read, my only complaint was that I wish it has been a little longer.

3 stars

Find out more:

Published November 13th 2015 by Choc Lit. 
A free copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.  Image courtesy of Goodreads.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Book Review: Necessary Force by D.D Ayers

It was supposed to be a sexy calendar shoot to raise money for K-9 service dogs. Photographer Georgie Flynn never expected to break all her personal rules and jump into bed with one of the hunky men posing. And after their steamy night together, she certainly never expected to see him again…despite their powerful connection.

When she's targeted by a stalker and possible bomber, Georgie finds that her gorgeous one-night stand is the only one who can help.

Brad Lawson, an FBI operative, and his K-9 bomb sniffing partner are assigned to protect the pretty photographer--and this time, he’s determined to keep things professional. He just didn't count on their explosive connection rekindling. But with a deadly threat on the horizon, will he be able to keep his body’s demands in check and complete his mission?
Necessary Force is the second book in D.D Ayres K-9 Rescue series that I've read. Last year I picked up Irresistible Force, the first book in the series. To be honest I wasn't a big fan of it. I found it a little too far-fetched and a bit all over the place. Taking that into account I wasn't excited to read Necessary Force but I always try not to judge an author or a series on only one book so I eventually gave it ago.

Generally speaking Necessary Force was a vast improvement on Irresistible Force. The main reason for this improvement is that this book is a novella. It meant that the story had to be compact. It couldn't go wildly off course like Irresistible Force did. It allowed me to really be able to see Ayers structure and writing.

I already know D.D Ayres can write. I complimented her writing in my review for Irresistible Force and I feel the same about her writing in this book. Ayers knows how to create, she knows how to world build and she does it well.

The storyline itself was enjoyable. It had a bit of everything, action, drama and romance. It was a little predictable, for example I knew who the bad guy was as soon as they were introduced but I didn't mind that to much, sometimes it is nice to know something the main character doesn't.

Georgie and Brad are both likeable characters, her more than him. Their relationship is an interesting one. His role in the FBI and their past encounter leads to a lack of trust between them that they have to over come. That dynamic worked for me and helped create a great chemistry between the two which I enjoyed.

All in all I enjoyed Necessary Force. When I next come across a D.D Ayers novel I will be more eager to read it than I was before.

3 stars


Find out more

Necessary Force by D.D Ayers.  K-9 Rescue book 0.5.  Published July 1st 2014 by St. Martin's Paperbacks
Image courtesy of Goodreads