Sunday, 26 July 2020

Unwed and Undead by Mary Janice Davidson


Undead and Unwed by Mary Janice Davidson is the first book in the Undead series. After a horrible car accident Betsy wakes up in the morgue to find out she is dead. After worrying she is a zombie she eventually figures out that she is in fact a vampire. Shocking though this is Betsy, doesn't think this should traumatically change her life. She is happy just to carry on as she was. However, Betsy is not a normal vampire and it soon becomes clear that her life is about to dramatically change.

The Good
* If you like a strong willed, potty mouthed, problematic lead character look no further. Betsy is all of those things and a lot more. She is witty, not afraid to say or do anything and a hell of a lot of fun to be around.
* This book is so funny it had me laughing out loud. Mary Janice Davidson has really great comic timing and knows how to construct humour.
* Everything is big and overdone including the smut. Sex is not treated as some sacred thing. There is a lot of sexual content in this book, none of it particularly romantic. It's a nice change for a book of this genre which is so often full of the meaningful stuff.
* This is a short book but that in no way was a bad thing. The storyline felt fleshed out enough and it didn't need to be any longer.

The Bad
* This is not a book to be taken seriously. If you are looking for depth look somewhere else.
* Betsy is the only character who is truly fleshed out. I liked the other characters but Betsy was such a big personality that she overwhelmed the others.

The Ugly
* Sinclair is not a very likable character and is even worse as a love interest. He is pushy, manipulative and plain dull. Hopefully he improves in the next books.

There comes a time in every book where you decide if you love, hate or are not that bothered by it. This was mine:

"I was instantly jolted into orgasm. It was a shallow one, the kind you get when you're diddling with yourself and squeeze your knees together at the right moment, but a come is a come.

If like me this quote makes you titter then you will probably like this book. If this makes you uncomfortable/shocks you/or makes you screw your nose up in displeasure then this book is not for you.

4 Stars

Friday, 24 April 2020

Book Review: The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells

From the acclaimed author of The Bones of You comes a haunting and heartbreaking new psychological thriller about a man thrust into the middle of a murder investigation, forced to confront the secrets of his ex-lover's past.

"I was fourteen when I fell in love with a goddess. . ."

So begins the testimony of Noah Calaway, an ex-lawyer with a sideline in armchair criminal psychology. Now living an aimless life in an inherited cottage in the English countryside, Noah is haunted by the memory of the beguiling young woman who left him at the altar sixteen years earlier. Then one day he receives a troubling phone call. April, the woman he once loved, lies in a coma, the victim of an apparent overdose--and the lead suspect in a brutal murder. Deep in his bones, Noah believes that April is innocent. Then again, he also believed they would spend the rest of their lives together.

While Noah searches for evidence that will clear April's name, a teenager named Ella begins to sift through the secrets of her own painful family history. The same age as April was when Noah first met her, Ella harbors a revelation that could be the key to solving the murder. As the two stories converge, there are shocking consequences when at last, the truth emerges.

Or so everyone believes. . .

Set in a borderland where the past casts its shadow on the present, with a time-shifting narrative that will mesmerize and surprise, The Beauty of the End is both a masterpiece of suspense and a powerful rumination on lost love.

“Suddenly your whole life is like a car crash, no brakes, gaining momentum, piling up behind you. Your mistakes, missed opportunities, all the time you’ve wasted, a twisted, rusting heap of scrap metal that can’t be salvaged. Overwhelming you. Crushing you.”

The thing about thrillers is that they are supposed to be, well, thrilling. The Beauty of the End lacked many things but this had to be the most notable. It didn't thrill me, at all. In fact, I found it all rather boring.

Ok, ok, ok it wasn't all that bad. The writing itself was decent enough. I do think that Debbie Howells has a flair for world building. She created a strong sense of location in every scene, and I had no problem visualizing the settings. The issue here wasn't Howells writing it was her imagination.

The plot is the first big problem. Not enough happened, there was no pay off at the end, which for the genre is fairly essential, and the 'twists' were nowhere near good enough for me. I'll put it this way, what I wanted was Big Little Lies and what I got was Midsummer Murders. That is not necessarily a bad thing if Midsummer Murders is your kind of thing, but it is not mine.

The second big problem is the characters. Noah is a wet blanket of a man whose obsession with April is borderline pathetic. He lacks personality and is boring. April is a little more interesting but she is barely in it and she is always seen through Noah's eyes. She is a 'goddess', not a woman. Will is even more interesting, but not enough time is given to him. The character that works the most is Ella, and again there are not enough pages of her perspective to make it work. The issues with characterization can be seen clearest in the police detective who is a snivelling, smug, asshole of a man. His grim arrogance is so over the top it is like he walked off the stage of a pantomime and somehow ended up in a crime thriller.

The Beauty of the End very clearly didn't work for me. It isn't a disaster, it isn't the worse book I have ever read, it is just not interesting enough. I wanted, no needed, more from it.

2 stars

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Monday, 24 July 2017

Burn by Suzanne Wright

Part of a small demon lair in Las Vegas, tattooist Harper Wallis lives a pretty simple life. That changes overnight when she discovers that her psychic mate, or 'anchor', is a guy who's rumoured to be the most powerful demon in existence. Compelling, full of secrets and armed with raw sexuality, Knox Thorne is determined to claim her as his anchor, creating a psychic bond that will prevent their inner demons from ever turning rogue.

The billionaire also wants Harper in his bed.

She's not so sure she wants either of those things. No one seems to know what breed of demon Knox is, only that he's more dangerous than anything she's ever before encountered. But he refuses to walk away. And when an unknown danger starts closing in on Harper, it seems that Knox is the only one who can keep her safe.

As Prime of his Las Vegas lair and a successful businessman, Knox Thorne is used to being in control. He's also used to people fearing and obeying him. Harper does neither, which unexpectedly amuses him. Unpredictable, elusive and complex, she draws Knox and his inner demon like nothing ever has.

Knox is used to getting what he wants, and he wants Harper. He'll have her, and he'll keep her safe from the threat that looms over her. Because Knox protects what's his. He won't allow anyone to take her from him. Even if it will mean letting the demon inside him rise and wreak the havoc it was created to make.

“Harper was also a person who preferred to avoid complications. Like parking tickets, speed restrictions, and red lights – which was why she no longer had a driver’s license.”  

Looking at all the reviews for this book makes me think that there might be something wrong with me. Everyone seems to love this book, they are raving about it! They love the romance, they love the dominant Knox, and they think this book is steamy hot...then there is me, who thinks the opposite of all these things.

The thing is, well, I really didn't like this book at all.

I had issues with it from beginning to end, storyline, romance, characters, I couldn't get on with any of this.

Ok so my first issue is that I feel like I have read this book before. Strong minded, sassy woman meets arrogant and possessive billionaire. She tries to be independent, he does anything in his power to control her. There are so many books out there with this dynamic that I struggled to find this original. I liked the paranormal setting, I also quite liked the world building and I felt like there could be real potential in this world but the romance just brought the whole thing down.

The second issue: 'psychic fingers' what in the actual...? OK, so firstly a man who cannot be bothered to take off my pants to give me pleasure is not my kind of man, secondly the thought of being touched, you know, down there, by a mind weirds me out. Thirdly, and most importantly, these 'fingers' are used to control Harper. If she does something Knox doesn't like, if she fights against him, he just whips out them old 'mind fingers' and she has no choice but to give in. I found it yucky, I found it weird and completely invasive. She had no real defence against it and he used it in the wrong way.

And my big third issue was substance giving way to sex. There was just too much of it. I like a bit of spice in my books, maybe even more than the average reader but this was too much for me.

There were other issues but these were the main ones. Maybe I will carry on with this series maybe I won't but one thing is clear a lot of people are seeing something I am not.

2 stars

Find out more

A free copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.  Published November 1st 2016 by Piatkus.  Dark in You book 1.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Curious Minds by Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton

Emerson Knight is introverted, eccentric, and has little to no sense of social etiquette. Good thing he’s also brilliant, rich, and (some people might say) handsome, or he’d probably be homeless. Riley Moon has just graduated from Harvard Business and Harvard Law. Her aggressive Texas spitfire attitude has helped her land her dream job as a junior analyst with mega-bank Blane-Grunwald. At least Riley Moon thought it was her dream job, until she is given her first assignment: babysitting Emerson Knight.

What starts off as an inquiry about missing bank funds in the Knight account leads to inquiries about a missing man, missing gold, and a life-and-death race across the country. Through the streets of Washington, D.C., and down into the underground vault of the Federal Reserve in New York City, an evil plan is exposed. A plan so sinister that only a megalomaniac could think it up, and only the unlikely duo of the irrepressibly charming Emerson Knight and the tenacious Riley Moon can stop it.

“Now it’s my turn,” Riley said. “What’s your first name? Where’d you grow up? Who’s your favorite Batman?”

I really love Janet Evanovich's writing so when Curious Minds came up on Netgally I had to request it and I was over the moon when I was approved. I was so excited that I opened it up straight away.

I did really enjoy this book, I didn't love it as much as some of Evanovich's other work but I did like it. For a start this is a book that doesn't take itself very seriously and is an awful lot of fun. I really enjoyed the funny storyline and writing even when it bordered on the absurd. This really was my type of funny so I breezed through this book laughing a lot on the way.

The characters was brilliant. I really liked Emerson, he was wacky and funny and charming. Riley was a lot more serious but not in a bad way. I found that they really balanced each other out. There wasn't really that much romance between them but the chemistry was definitely there. I hope that they will get together in the next book in the series.

Despite all the fun I had with this book there was something missing from it that meant I didn't enjoy it as much as I could have. I cannot put my finger on it but I just wanted something a little more.

3 stars

Find out more

A free copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.  Published August 16th 2016 by Bantam Dell.  Knight and Moon book 1.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Review: Outpost by Adam Baker

They took the job to escape the world.
They didn't expect the world to end.

Kasker Rampart: a derelict refinery platform moored in the Arctic Ocean. A skeleton crew of fifteen fight boredom and despair as they wait for a relief ship to take them home. But the world beyond their frozen wasteland has gone to hell. Cities lie ravaged by a global pandemic. One by one TV channels die, replaced by silent wavebands. The Rampart crew are marooned. They must survive the long Arctic winter, then make their way home alone. They battle starvation and hypothermia, unaware that the deadly contagion that has devastated the world is heading their way...

'A slow dragging sound came from below the walkway, "I don't think we're alone down here," said Punch.'

It's very rare that a zombie book delivers something new.  Piking up a book like this is more entertaining stuff that you've read before, but in Outpost Adam Baker has created something a little different.  A hybrid of The Thing and Dawn of the Dead Outcast presents a new setting and some new ideas for the zombie genre.

The story was interesting, well paced and well written.  It was never boring and never rushed.  Baker did a great job of creating his world and I had no problem getting lost in the world he created. 

Unfortunately, it wasn't all good news.  The characters were an issue for me.  There was not one person I liked in this book, and Jane, the main character, was quite frankly unbearable.  She was teeth grindingly irritating and ruined the book for me.

Outpost has an interesting story with some nice atmospheric moments but its characters weigh it down making it average instead of great.

3 stars

Find out more:

Published April 14th 2011 by Hodder.  Book one in the Outpost series.

Friday, 14 July 2017

The Ballroom by Anna Hope

Where love is your only escape ....

1911: Inside an asylum at the edge of the Yorkshire moors, where men and women are kept apart by high walls and barred windows, there is a ballroom vast and beautiful. For one bright evening every week they come together and dance. When John and Ella meet It is a dance that will change two lives forever.

Set over the heatwave summer of 1911, the end of the Edwardian era, THE BALLROOM is a tale of unlikely love and dangerous obsession, of madness and sanity, and of who gets to decide which is which.

How do you stand it?" she said.

"Stand what?"

"All... this." Ella threw out her arm. "Does it not make you mad?"

Clem glanced up. 'Much madness is divinest sense,' She said, and gave a small laugh. "There are plenty of mad women in here. I'm not sure I'm one of them though." She shrugged. "You'll get used to it.”

Sometimes you come across a book that is just…special. A book that makes reading anything else in the days after you finish almost impossible. A book that stays with you days, weeks even months after you finish. The Ballroom is one of those books. This review will not be able to put into words how beautiful, moving and genuinely brilliant I thought this book was but I shall try.

The Ballroom tells a beautiful story of romance, friendship and history. It deals with issues such as mental health, social oppression, homosexuality and gender without being preaching or treating the subjects like something less than they are. Anna Hope has written a story of depth whilst also making it relatable and interesting.

The story moves along at a good pace, and from page one to the end I was never bored. Every page, character, location and plot turn is interesting. I found The Ballroom so engaging that I struggled to put it down and when I had too I could not stop thinking about it. Anna Hope does a great job of at weaving together a romance, the historical significance of the book, the social ramification and well-rounded characterisation. One does not over shadow the other and the result is a well-balanced book and story. There is a lot going on here but it is never confused or overdone.

Anna Hope’s writing is simply beautiful. Her prose is effortlessly powerful and meaningful. She shows and doesn’t tell the reader and every emotion, moment and intention feels real and powerful. She treats the emotional and significant themes that run through The Ballroom with the upmost respect without censoring it. The historical period felt authentic as did the social and cultural issues that were prevalent in the period.

The storyline and writing are fantastic but it is the characters that really make this book what it is. Ella, John, Clem and Charles are all well rounded and well built. They each bring something to this novel and each drive the story. Ella is the character I related to the most. She is an ordinary working girl who finds herself in an awful situation. She is not ‘mad’ just fed up with the cards she has been dealt. There is a hope in her that really drives the book and which is the life force of her romance with John.

Clem and Charles are more secondary characters but in some ways, they are the most important characters in the book. Clem represents a lot of the heart and heartbreak in the book. She is a much-needed friend to Ella but also carries a lot of the emotion depth. Charles represents the conflict. Yet there is more to him than just menace. He starts as a good man, a man who wants to do the best for the people in the asylum but his demons are hard to fight and the more he denies who he is the colder and more horrifying he becomes.

I did want to talk about the romance even though it is not all this novel is about. I am a romantic at heart and this romances really invested me. It was glorious and beautiful and made my stomach churn with nerves. Ella and John find in each other escape, hope and true love. The use of The Ballroom, the only place where they get to see each other was inspired and added so much to the genuine emotion of their romance.

Anna Hope has really created something special here. If you are a fan of history, romance and real, raw characters then read this book. If you love the Bronte’s and Atonement and other books that are ‘more than just a romance’ then read this book. If you just love books then find yourself a copy of this. I read a lot and I enjoy a lot of books so when I say this was the best book not only of 2016 but that I’ve read in a long while I don’t say it lightly. The Ballroom is the type of book that comes along rarely and it has easily found its way into my favourite list.

5 stars

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A free copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review.  Image courtesy of Goodreads.

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

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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

Find out more:

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

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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

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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

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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

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