31 August 2012

TGIF: Choices, choices, choices!



It's Friday, and TGIF at GReads! TGIF is on hold after this week as Ginger is going back to school. All the best Ginger, and thanks for everything!

This week's question: How do you go about choosing what you read next? Do you have a schedule you follow, or do you read whatever makes you happy at the moment?


This is one of the hardest things about blogging for me - balancing blog tour, review copies AND devoting time to reading what I want. There will be weeks on end that I only read review books, and then I have a mini rebellion and I just HAVE to read something of my own choice.

I recently made a decision to not accept so many requests, and although I've got a lot still to get through, it's nice to think that finally all those books that have been languishing on my shelves, unloved and gathering dust, will get their moment.

So how do I pick them? I just choose something at random, the first thing that takes my fancy.

How do you choose your next read? Structure or lucky dip?


30 August 2012

Review: The Raft by S.A. Bodeen

The Raft by S.A. Bodeen

Expected publication: 21 August 2012 by Feiwel & Friends

Pages: 231 (hardcover)

Genre/s: YA, Survival, Psychology

Source: Publisher for review

Check it out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ The Book Depository

Synopsis (Goodreads)


Robie is an experienced traveler. She’s taken the flight from Honolulu to the Midway Atoll, a group of Pacific islands where her parents live, many times. When she has to get to Midway in a hurry after a visit with her aunt in Hawaii, she gets on the next cargo flight at the last minute. She knows the pilot, but on this flight, there’s a new co-pilot named Max. All systems are go until a storm hits during the flight. The only passenger, Robie doesn’t panic until the engine suddenly cuts out and Max shouts at her to put on a life jacket. They are over miles of Pacific Ocean. She sees Max struggle with a raft.

And then . . . she’s in the water. Fighting for her life. Max pulls her onto the raft, and that’s when the real terror begins. They have no water. Their only food is a bag of Skittles. There are sharks. There is an island. But there’s no sign of help on the way.


Why I Read It

Firstly, I have a massive fear of flying, so reading this book is also me trying to overcome one of my fears.  Secondly, survivalist fiction is something that has always intrigued me.

My Thoughts

The Raft is one of those stories that can easily get under your skin - the choices that Robie makes are not always the smartest, so it's very easy to get into the 'what if' mindset.  If you were suddenly adrift in the middle of the ocean in a rubber raft, what would you do?

Robie is an interesting character in that she is actually like a typical teenage girl (I can say that, I was one, once!), she makes mistakes, she can be quite selfish, but she's also got a bit of toughness and develops her own mechanisms for coping with a tragic situation.  One thing that particularly rang true with me was her theory of 'what could be worse', which is something I use myself.

Writing, and reading, a story with one main character is difficult.  There's no one to bounce off and there's a serious risk of readers hating the main character as they spend so long with them, but I think that S.A. Bodeen did this pretty well - I wasn't gasping for new characters to get me away from Robie.

I can imagine that some people may have issues with the choices Robie makes, and some of the things she does, but I can honestly say that when I was 15 I wouldn't have had a clue about some of the basics of survival either.  In that way, The Raft is pretty realistic.

29 August 2012

Review: A Voice In the Distance by Tabitha Suzuma

A Voice in the Distance (Flynn Laukonen #2) by Tabitha Suzuma

Published: 1 May 2008 by Definitions

Pages: 256 (paperback)

Genre/s: Mental Health, Contemporary

Source: Own library

Check It Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ The Book Depository

This is the sequel to A Note Of Madness and therefore may contain spoilers. 

Synopsis (Goodreads)

In his final year at the Royal College of Music, star pianist Flynn Laukonen has the world at his feet. He has moved in with his girlfriend Jennah and is already getting concert bookings for what promises to be a glittering career. Yet he knows he is skating on thin ice - only two small pills a day keep him from plunging back into the whirlpool of manic depression that once threatened to destroy him. Unexpectedly his friends seem to be getting annoyed with him for no apparent reason, he needs less and less sleep, he is filled with unbridled energy. Events begin to spiral out of control and Flynn suddenly finds himself in hospital, heavily sedated, carnage left behind him. The medication isn't working any more, the dose needs to be increased, and depression strikes again, this time with horrific consequences. His freedom is snatched away and the medicine's side-effects threaten to jeopardize his chances in one of the biggest piano competitions of his life. It seems like he has to make a choice between the medication and his career. But in all this he has forgotten the one person he would give his life for, and Flynn suddenly finds himself facing the biggest sacrifice of all. 



My Thoughts

This was my third book by Tabitha Suzuma, and following on from A Note of Madness, when I couldn't help but fall a little bit in love with Flynn, I was excited to see where his story would go next. Of course, I knew this would be another emotional read, and I was quite surprised to find that the story was told in alternating POV between Flynn and Jennah.

But it really couldn't have been written any other way - and in fact the whole feel of the book was more Jennah's story than Flynn's, which was perfect. I liked Jennah in the first book, but this time around I could completely feel her pain, her confusion and her soul-wrenching sorrow as Flynn's illness spiralled out of control. Everything that happens to Flynn, Jennah and their families and friends feels completely real and imaginable. Their relationship is incredibly touching and their love is convincing, with realistic dialogue.

The ending is, in the typical style of Ms. Suzuma, not neat nor pretty. It's another bittersweet tear-jerker that had my heart breaking as I read with something akin to mania through the closing stages, but still maintained that little spark of hope that things really could get better for Flynn and Jennah.

Although this is a quick read, it's not a light one and once again Ms. Suzuma has written an emotional, compelling book that is impossible to put down.

As I said at the end of my review of A Note of Madness, if you are put off reading Forbidden due to the nature of the plot, this series perfectly showcases Ms. Suzuma's fantastic, emotional, compelling writing and I can recommend it to anyone.


28 August 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Confessions

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. I heart lists! 


This week: Top Ten Bookish Confessions

1) I am a reformed dog-earer. Even library books (*runs*).

2) I crack spines. Almost compulsively. I'm proud of myself when I can make it through a book WITHOUT cracking the spine.

3) I don't like hardcovers. They scuff too easily, they're heavy and I can't crack the spines (see above).

4) I eat while reading. And drink. I'm in serious awe of people who DON'T eat or drink while reading.

5) I spend more on books than on clothes and shoes added together.

6) I've skipped social events in order to finish a book (and probably had more fun reading, but that's another story!)

7) I hate sharing my books - I've received too many back in terrible condition!

8) I use Collectorz software to catalog my books - and I tag them not just by genre, but cover colour and location (this takes HOURS).

9) I have 1534 books on my owned-to-read list.

10) I have four e-readers - a Sony, a Cybook, an iPod (Kindle) and a tablet.

So, I'm guessing no one wants to share books with me anymore? ;-).  Now, give me at least one of your Bookish Confessions - it can't get much worse than mine!

27 August 2012

Review: The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay

The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay

Published: 26 June 2012 by HarperCollins

Pages: 336 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Historical Fiction

Source: Publisher for review

Check It Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK (available from 27 September 2012) ~ The Book Depository

Synopsis (Goodreads)

"I am Moth, a girl from the lowest part of Chrystie Street, born to a slum-house mystic and the man who broke her heart." So begins The Virgin Cure, a novel set in the tenements of lower Manhattan in the year 1871. As a young child, Moth's father smiled, tipped his hat and walked away from her forever. The summer she turned twelve, her mother sold her as a servant to a wealthy woman, with no intention of ever seeing her again.

These betrayals lead Moth to the wild, murky world of the Bowery, filled with house-thieves, pickpockets, beggars, sideshow freaks and prostitutes, where eventually she meets Miss Everett, the owner of a brothel simply known as "The Infant School." Miss Everett caters to gentlemen who pay dearly for companions who are "willing and clean," and the most desirable of them all are young virgins like Moth.

Through the friendship of Dr. Sadie, a female physician, Moth learns to question and observe the world around her, where her new friends are falling prey to the myth of the "virgin cure"--that deflowering a "fresh maid" can heal the incurable and tainted. She knows the law will not protect her, that polite society ignores her, and still she dreams of answering to no one but herself. There's a high price for such independence, though, and no one knows that better than a girl from Chrystie Street.


My Thoughts

I read Ami McKay's first book, The Birth House a couple of years ago and completely fell in love with her writing. Historical Fiction is a genre I've always enjoyed and when I find an author I love, I stick with them. And after recently finishing a book that was about another young woman being forced into prostitution, I was even more excited to read The Virgin Cure.

The story of Moth is moving and disturbing, but she is such a strong, determined character that there's no victim mentality here. For a girl who has endured so much in her short life, her strength really shines through in her story, despite her tender age and naivety.

Moth's journey through the seedier and crazier parts of New York and society, from the slums to servitude in a rich woman's house, to brothels and travelling carnivals is further enriched by the inclusion of newspaper clippings, magazine articles and various other tidbits of information that relate directly to Moth's story and also give more insight into the lifestyles and opinions of that age.

Dr. Sadie's inclusion was necessary, but wasn't quite in proportion to the rest of the book. I would liked to have seen either more of her story, or have it limited to the journal entries only - it just felt a little unbalanced in the scheme of the story. The ending also felt a little bit neat - not everything is resolved, but there was a lack of resistance on the part of one of the characters which didn't seem completely realistic, given their investment in Moth.

The Virgin Cure is written in the same compelling, lyrical voice of Ms. McKay's previous book and it completely evokes the feeling of being THERE in the story. If you love historical fiction, or unconventional heroines, I can definitely recommend The Virgin Cure.



26 August 2012

Showcase Sunday #3


Showcase Sunday is hosted by the fabulous Vicky of Books, Biscuits and Tea and it's all about sharing the books we've received in the last week - bought, begged or borrowed!

Does anyone else have those weeks when you think you've not got anything much and when you start checking it's far more than you realise? I've definitely had a week like that!


Plague by Victor Methos
Flood by Richard Doyle
Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Breathe by Sarah Crossan 

Link me up lovelies!

25 August 2012

Review: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa


The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden #1) by Julie Kagawa

Published: 24 April 2012 by HarlequinTeen

Pages: 485 (hardcover)

Source: Publisher for review

Genre/s: YA, Paranormal, Vampires

Check it Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ The Book Depository

Synopsis (Goodreads)

In a future world, Vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity.

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.

Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked—and given the ultimate choice. Die… or become one of the monsters.

Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.

Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend—a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.

But it isn’t easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what—and who—is worth dying for.



My Thoughts


Vampires and I are pretty much the mortal enemies of the paranormal/reader world. I can't exactly pinpoint WHY but I think the whole trend of vampires being good guys deep down grates on me - vampires aren't supposed to be nice, or fall in love or want to protect small human children from harm. So I started reading The Immortal Rules with a little bit of bias....

And now I'm eating my own words, because Julie Kagawa completely surpassed my expectations with The Immortal Rules - the world building is of such a high standard, with just the right mixture of explanation and show, the characters are unforgettable and it's a page turner of epic proportions.



World building is the thing I need most in books - the author has to convince me that this world is real, and The Immortal Rules certainly does that - I could see the ruined, vampire-run world in my mind, the campsites and slums, the cities and the sewers.

I thought Allie was a perfect main character - a survivor, strong-willed, independent and daring, but even after she turns, she struggles to maintain her humanity despite the circumstances she finds herself in. Zeke is completely loveable in that sweet-boy kinda way, and even the secondary characters jump off the page in full glory. The good are good, the bad are bad and there's a whole lot of grey in between, which builds tension perfectly.

The vampires? I was convinced. Sure, they aren't the typical vampires of lore, dark and pure evil, but they are pretty damn creepy. There's no substituting animal blood for human blood, no veggie vamps and no synthetic blood. Ms. Kagawa doesn't really explore new 'features' for her vampires but sticks with the traditional blood suckers with impressive speed and flexibility.


There's no arguing that at 485 pages this is a long book - but I read it in less than 48 hours - the storyline and the pacing kept me coming back to The Immortal Rules whenever I had a moment to steal another page.

This was my first book by Julie Kagawa and definitely not my last. Maybe, just maybe, vampires and I have a future after all.


24 August 2012

Author Interview and Giveaway - Mad World: Epidemic by Samaire Provost

Earlier today I posted my review of Mad World: Epidemic by Samaire Provost.  Now Samaire is back for an interview and a giveaway!

Introduce yourself!

Hello, my name is Samaire Provost and I love to write! I've been writing stories since I was seven years old. I've been submitting stories to magazines since I was twelve years old. I live in California on the coast and my other interests include gardening, reading, singing, and making art. I am really happy to have Mad World: EPIDEMIC published and I think it's a book everyone will find exciting and engaging!

When did you first realise that you wanted to be a writer?

I think it was at a very early age. I loved books and loved reading from age 4 on. I had a huge imagination and I decided I was going to be a writer. I think I was around six years old. I just knew that was what I was born to be. I wrote a few stories before I was ten years old, and then my parents bought me "The Black Stallion" by Walter Farley and I loved it so much that I wanted to write a long, wonderful, in depth story like that. It lit a fire under me for writing chapter books instead of short stories.

Why did you choose to write a zombie book?

I had read a zombie book and it had a female heroine and I'd loved that. I found the story left a lot of questions, though. Like: how did the zombies start? How did it get from the beginning to the huge threat it was when the story started? How would I react to something like that? How would regular people, students at a high school, for instance, react? What would they do?
I read the zombie book and thought to myself, "I think I can do better!"

Where did the inspiration come from to have The Black Death as a catalyst for the disease?

I read an article about how scientists had actually unearthed the graves from the 1350's in Europe and were trying to extract the bacteria from the corpse's bone marrow and reactivate the Black Plague from that era. I read this article, and then did some more research on what those scientists were doing, and I thought, "Well that doesn't sound like a very smart thing to do. What if something went wrong?" And then I started thinking, "Hmmmmm..... I wonder WHAT WOULD HAPPEN. What *could* happen." And boom! I had my premise.

Are any of the characters based on people you know?

Coach Turner is based on a teacher I knew in high school. The rest are my own creations.
All of the main characters have a little of me in them.
The idea of the Advanced Acting trip to Broadway came from my own high school experience.

Something tells me this is the start of a series.....how many books are you intending to write?

I have three planned, but more might be forthcoming. I never say "never" :-)
The sequel to Mad World: EPIDEMIC is nearly completed.

Sell me Mad World: Epidemic in 140 characters or less!

"What would you and your friends do if plunged into an Epidemic so horrific you had to fight for your life and make tough choices to survive?"


And now for the giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A Book Tour by Bewitching Book Tours

Review: Mad World: Epidemic by Samaire Provost

Mad World: Epidemic by Samaire Provost

Published: 28 July 2012

Pages: 160 (paperback)

Genre/s: YA, Zombie

Source: Blog Tour

Check it Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK

Synopsis

The Black Plague is ancient history. It killed 100 million people nearly seven centuries ago, halfway around the world from the technologically advanced research center at Stanford University. Scientists there have recently begun examining samples of bone marrow from plague-infected corpses unearthed in Europe. All the necessary safeguards are in place. What could go wrong?

Alyssa and Jake are away with their class on a highly anticipated year-end trip to Broadway with their senior acting class when all hell breaks loose at home. Traveling back, and trying to find their families, they encounter deadly results. Riots are breaking out. People are being evacuated. And they have no idea what's happening to their families.


Horrific ordeals, heart-pounding tragedy, and chance encounters harden them for what lies ahead. Faced with tormenting decisions, they're forced to follow their instinct for survival at any cost - even when the cost is a heart-wrenching decision of life or death.


A harrowing adventure of frightening discoveries, horrifying confrontations and narrow escapes in Epidemic, the first installment of the Mad World series.

Find out what's got everyone so terrified.


My Thoughts

Almost a novella in length, Mad World: Epidemic fits quite a story into its 160 pages - as the students make it home to find their families are gone and some seriously deranged people are wandering about their neighbourhood, they pick up a few stragglers and set off to the main evacuation point in Los Angeles.

I did have a few small issues with this book - firstly, one of the main characters picks up a gun and immediately takes four perfect head shots. It is mentioned that his family has an interest in guns, but this seems a little improbable - from what I understand, hitting a target in the head from a distance is quite difficult, let alone four times in a row. Secondly, as they travel to Los Angeles they find multiple gas stations that are fully manned, without any looting or rioting mentioned - surely the residents or staff would get wind of a possible disease outbreak and start stocking up, whether legally or not.

Apart from these niggles, I did enjoy the story - the disease angle is interesting and not one I've read before, there is a wide range of characters (including the token pregnant lady), and it's not all puppies and flowers - some characters die, there are bloody scenes and the zombies are proper freaky.

Mad World: Epidemic was a fun, roller-coaster read - I liked the characters, and there's a lot of potential in this for a great YA zombie series.



About the Author



Samaire Provost lives in California with her husband and son.

Her love of paranormal stories, odd plots, and unique tales as well as the works of Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Susan Cooper, Madeleine L'Engle and Stephen King has deeply influenced her writing.

Mad World : EPIDEMIC her first novel. The second in the series is entitled "Mad World: SANCTUARY"

www.twitter.com/samairep
www.facebook.com/samairep
www.samaireprovost.tumblr.com/


23 August 2012

Review: Speechless by Hannah Harrington

Speechless by Hannah Harrington

Expected Publication: 23 August 2012 by HarlequinTeen

Pages: 288 (paperback)

Genre/s: YA, Contemporary

Source: Publisher for review

Check It Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ The Book Depository

Synopsis (Goodreads)

The story of a girl named Chelsea Knot who takes a voluntary oath of silence after her gossip-mongering ways yield unexpected consequences…

Saying she’s sorry isn’t enough.

My Thoughts


HarlequinTeen have published a bunch of amazing YA contemporaries in the past few months, and I've been lucky enough to read a few of them.  With Speechless, I had high expectations - Hannah Harrington is the author of the much loved Saving June, so I was looking forward to experiencing her writing for myself.

Chelsea Knot has it all - she's popular, best friends with the Queen Bee, is working on catching the eye of the cutest boy in school, and loves nothing more than a good gossip - even at the expense of other people.  But one night her love of gossip goes one step too far and suddenly she's the most hated girl in school.

Honestly, I didn't like Chelsea at the beginning of the book, but as the story progressed, I liked her more and more, particularly after she did something early on that I didn't expect that she would.  By the end of the book, I wanted everything to work out for her, and her new friends.  The secondary characters of Speechless are a big part of the story, and almost all of them likable.

I particulary liked that Chelsea had a close relationship with her parents - they aren't just background figures, they are part of the book, and I really enjoyed the interaction that she had with both her mother and her father.

Speechless is more than just a book about a popular girl's fall from grace, there are strong themes of friendship, acceptance and a realistic romance that all make for an extraordinarly good contemporary YA, complimented by Hannah Harrington's addictive writing style and excellent characterisation.

Speechless goes right to the top of my favourite YA Contemporaries for 2012.


22 August 2012

Book Blog Survey Results Part Four - Likes, Dislikes & Wishlists

Ok, time for part four, and the really juicy bits. So what do we like about blogs, what do we dislike and what do we want more of?!

If you missed them the first time, you can read:

What We Love


Author Interviews = 5%
Book Gossip* = 11%
Book Reviews = 40%
Discussion Posts = 10%
Giveaways = 48%
Guest Posts = 1%
Memes = 4%
Other** = 4%

Not surprisingly, we love giveaways - and I know bloggers LOVE hosting giveaways - what better way to share the book love?! 

*Book Gossip = Cover reveals, trailers, release lists etc.
** I'll be sharing some of the comments from 'Other' in next weeks post.


What We Don't Love So Much




Book Reviews = 1% (I really hope you just clicked the wrong answer (-: )
Author Interviews = 7%
Guest Posts = 12%
Discussion Posts = 17%
Memes = 28%
Book Gossip = 17%
Other = 18%
Giveaways = 0%

I'm not the biggest fan of memes myself, although I do participate in a few!

We Want More!*

Giveaways = 92%
Book Reviews = 69%
Book Gossip = 66%
Discussion Features = 66%
Author Interviews = 63%
Guest Posts = 30%
Memes = 21%
Other = 13%


I think this one is pretty conclusive - giveaways, reviews and book talk are what we all want, and why we are here!



*Multiple choice question



Review Preferences*



Writing reviews is tricky - it's a delicate balance. So what kinds of reviews do people enjoy the most?

Long reviews = 36%

Short reviews = 72%
Serious reviews = 37%
Funny reviews = 61%
Reviews with minor spoilers = 28%

Reviews with no spoilers = 53%


So, I'm off to write some short, funny reviews with NO spoilers!



*Multiple choice question 

Sharing the Love

I LOVE hosting giveaways, but I'm always curious as to what kind of giveaways people actually like the most. I feel lazy posting 'choose your own' giveaways, because I want to give people the opportunity to read books I've loved, or live through me and read the books I can't get to.

I only enter giveaways for books I really want = 74% - I love this!
I prefer choose your own prize giveaways = 65% (laziness rewarded!)
I don't like giveaways that require following the blog = 5%
I don't like having to post a comment, or answer a question, to enter = 27%
None of the above = 7%

That's Part Four - any surprises? Bloggers, does it give you some good information, or inspiration?

Next week is the finale - Part Five - To Blog or Not to Blog and some awesome comments that I want to share!

21 August 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Blog Favourites


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. I heart lists!

This weeks' Top Ten is: Top Ten Favorite Books You've Read During The Lifespan Of Your Blog



The First Days by Rhiannon Frater

This was a re-read, but Rhiannon Frater is one of my most favourite zombie authors - I've yet to read a book of hers that I don't LOVE, and The First Days is all about Girl Power during the Zomb-apocalypse.

The Review


This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Easily one of my most-lusted-after books in 2012, and it didn't disappoint. A new Courtney Summers fan was born.

The Review



Zombie Fallout by Mark Tufo

Another re-read, but the Zombie Fallout series remains one of my first, and most loved zombie reads. Look out for a Zombie Fallout 3 review soon!

The Review



Meat by Joseph D'Lacey

Originally listened to on audiobook, I had to read it in print - easily one of the most shocking, thought-provoking books I've reviewed here!

The Review



Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

I had low expectations for this one - YA-horror-romance = impossible. I've never been happier to have been proven wrong! And Cas is easily my favourite male character of 2012!

The Review


Rapture by Phillip W. Simpson

One of the first 5 star reviews on my blog, and will always be one of my favourite reads - eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.

The Review



Jenny Pox by J.L. Bryan

Proving that self-published can be better than traditionally published, Jenny Pox is one of the best Kindle freebies I've ever had the honour to read.

The Review



Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

Forbidden is the first book that ever reduced me to sobbing tears of sadness. 'Nuff said.

The Review



Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

An overwhelming character list didn't put me off - long rumoured as the inspiration for The Hunger Games, in my opinion Battle Royale is far superior - gorier, more intense, and no-holds-barred.

The Review


Dead of Night by Jonathan Maberry

Jonathan Maberry is one of the most prolific zombie authors out there, and Dead of Night showcases exactly why - a tough, flawed heroine, a creepy, action-packed, unique story-line - what more could a zombie book need?

The Review




Anyone surprised at the amount of zombie in there? What are your favourite reviews on your blog (or Goodreads!)?

20 August 2012

Cover Reveals: Fancy New Covers for Vampire Bride series by Rhiannon Frater


I'm super excited to bring you the new covers for Rhiannon Frater's Vampire Bride series, The Tale of the Vampire Bride and The Vengeance of the Vampire Bride.

So, what did they look like before?


And now *drumroll please*



I love these covers, particularly the red hair - she's totally rocking that look!

Credits:

Photographer: Helena Cruz
Model: Megan Young
Cover Artwork: Claudia McKinney
Typography: Ashley of The Bookish Brunette Designs


The third book in the series, The Lament of the Vampire Bride is coming in 2013.

Review: The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

Expected Publication: 21 August 2012 by HarperCollins

Pages: 448 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Historical Fiction

Source: Publisher for review

Check It Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ The Book Depository

Synopsis (Goodreads)

You belong to the earth, and the earth is hard.

At the turn of the twentieth century, in a rural stretch of the Pacific Northwest in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, a solitary orchardist named Talmadge carefully tends the grove of fruit trees he has cultivated for nearly half a century. A gentle, solitary man, he finds solace and purpose in the sweetness of the apples, apricots, and plums he grows, and in the quiet, beating heart of the land-the valley of yellow grass bordering a deep canyon that has been his home since he was nine years old. Everything he is and has known is tied to this patch of earth. It is where his widowed mother is buried, taken by illness when he was just thirteen, and where his only companion, his beloved teenaged sister Elsbeth, mysteriously disappeared. It is where the horse wranglers-native men, mostly Nez Perce-pass through each spring with their wild herds, setting up camp in the flowering meadows between the trees.

One day, while in town to sell his fruit at the market, two girls, barefoot and dirty, steal some apples. Later, they appear on his homestead, cautious yet curious about the man who gave them no chase. Feral, scared, and very pregnant, Jane and her sister Della take up on Talmadage's land and indulge in his deep reservoir of compassion. Yet just as the girls begin to trust him, brutal men with guns arrive in the orchard, and the shattering tragedy that follows sets Talmadge on an irrevocable course not only to save and protect them, putting himself between the girls and the world, but to reconcile the ghosts of his own troubled past. 



My Thoughts

From the very first page of The Orchardist I knew that I would love this book.  The detailed, flowing description of Talmadge sets the scene and writing that continues throughout the story.

Set in the orchard that Talmadge came to live in as a child with his widowed mother and younger sister, The Orchardist is a contraction of itself - dark yet heartening, lyrical yet stark, complicated yet straightforward.  Amanda Coplin contructs a story that is simple in plot but epic in execution.

Talmadge is gentle and kind, yet inwardly complicated - his past is tragic, and he has devoted his life to the most down-to-earth of occupations, tending his orchard, but when two young women come unexpectedly into his life, his obsession with protecting and sheltering them from their own tragic past drives him to do whatever it takes to make their lives better.  Della is so broken by her past, and her present, that she spends her whole life looking for something, or someone, that she cannot have.   

It's been quite a while since I read a book that could hold my attention just with the writing style alone, but I was immediately drawn into the story - the cast of characters is small, but all are so intimately  drawn by the end I knew them all so well it was like I was imagining the story, rather than reading it.

Any lover of historical fiction, lyrical writing will love The Orchardist, and I personally will be thinking about this story for a long, long time.


Bout of Books 5.0 Wrap Up


Wow this was an awesome reading week for me - along with Bout of Books driving me on, I also did a 24 hour read-a-thon over the weekend which really bumped up my reading list.



Speechless by Hannah Harrington
Frozen by Mary Casanova
The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks
Mad World: Epidemic by Samaire Provost
If I Stay by Gail Forman
Where She Went by Gail Forman

Total books finished: 8
Pages read: 2176


I hope everyone had a fantastic time! I'll definitely be participating again!

19 August 2012

Showcase Sunday #2


Showcase Sunday is hosted by the fabulous Vicky of Books, Biscuits and Tea and it's all about sharing the books we've received in the last week - bought, begged or borrowed!

After last week's binge, I've got a much smaller showcase this week:

Contagious by Emily Goodwin
Mad World: Epidemic by Samaire Provost
City of Whispers by Katherine Sorin

Wow, it's all looking a bit end-of-the-world ish in here.

What did you get this week? Link me up!

18 August 2012

Review: Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

Dearly, Departed (Gone With the Respiration #1) by Lia Habel

Published: 18 October 2011 by Del Rey

Pages: 470 (hardcover)

Genre/s: YA, Steampunk, Zombie

Source: Own library

Check It Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ The Book Depository

Synopsis (Goodreads)

The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria—a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country’s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible—until she’s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses.

But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she’s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting “The Laz,” a fatal virus that raises the dead—and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble . . . and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, there’s no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.


My Thoughts


The first time I saw the cover of Dearly, Departed my immediate thought was 'Ohhhhhh pretty!', then I read the synopsis - zombies, futuristic, steampunk - oh yeah, I was pulled right in and bought a copy straight away.

So did Dearly, Departed live up to my lofty expectations? Partly.

I loved the world-building - Lia Habel has taken an idea and done it full justice - the history, the steampunk elements, the whole idea of New Victoria, the science, the zombies - I couldn't find a single hole in any of it, and the presentation of all of those elements was, quite simply, perfect. Set in the late 22nd century, Dearly, Departed is both familiar and fantastical - ID chips, parasols, zeppelins, scary zombies, smart zombies.

Nora was an excellent main character - strong, smart and snarky, and Bram a perfect foil - their relationship (apart from the slightly icky zombie bit) felt natural and although it took place in a fishbowl setting, was enthralling - I felt a huge connection with both of them, and their scenes together had me completely sucked in. And the supporting zombie characters (Chas, Coalhouse etc.) literally jumped off the page.

Can you sense the BUT coming? Yeah here it is - the multiple POVs. And whilst I understand why they were there, I honestly found myself drifting the moment that the story shifted away from Bram and Nora. Pamela was an essential character, but Wolfe and the scientist just distracted me from a story that I was really enjoying.

Ms. Habel writes in a way that perfectly reflects the story - and the mixture of Victorian and modern language was a fun touch.

Overall I though this was an excellent story and very well presented, but the multiple POVs were just a little too much for me personally.


Notable Quotes
''You might think yours is an extra-special sparkly rainbow unicorn fart kind of suck, but it's not.'' 
''Vampires are just zombies with good PR!'' 
''It will be, as our ancestors used to say, epic.''

17 August 2012

TGIF - Pimp Your Review


It's FRIDAY - and that means TGIF at GReads

This weeks' TGIF is Pimp Your Review
, and I've chosen a review I wrote at the end of May for a horror book that I enjoyed so much I listened to it as an audiobook in 2011, and purchased the e-book for a re-read in 2012.

You can read my full review of Meat HERE, but in short, it's one of the most disturbing, yet thought-provoking horror stories I've ever read.


Got a review that needs some love? Leave me a link, I'll come check it out!

16 August 2012

Review: Temptation by Karen Ann Hopkins

Temptation (Temptation #1) by Karen Ann Hopkins

Published: 26 June 2012 by HarlequinTeen

Pages: 383 (paperback)

Genre/s: YA, Romance, Contemporary

Source: Publisher for review

Check It Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ The Book Depository

Synopsis (Goodreads)

Your heart misleads you.
That's what my friends and family say.

But I love Noah.
And he loves me.

We met and fell in love in the sleepy farming community of Meadowview, while we rode our horses together through the grassy fields and in those moments in each other's arms.

It should be

ROSE & NOAH

forever, easy.

But it won't be.

Because he's Amish.
And I'm not. 



My Thoughts

When I first read the synopsis for Temptation, I thought it sounded like a cute, summer read. After all, the main character, Rose, falls in love with an Amish boy. Yeah, it's forbidden love, but surely its just a crush story with a happy ending, right? Wrong.


Rose is a bit of a lost girl - her mother has died, so her father packs up Rose and her brothers and moves them to a small farming community, where one of the first people she meets is her new neighbour, Noah. As her father is the local doctor, the family is invited to dinner with the neighbours, and that's when we start to really see how the Amish community lives.


There is a bit of insta-love, but it's an understandable one - Rose has lost all the familiarity in her life - her friends, the big city, dancing, and Noah meets a girl that is so incredibly different to the women he has lived with his whole life. So suddenly having the attention of someone that finds her interesting and different makes it easy for Rose to fall head-over-heels. Personally, I couldn't really see the appeal in Noah, but that's the 30 year old me talking. 


Temptation does have some scenes, and themes, that would have any self-respecting woman a little bit agog - the Amish are very definite in their ideas of how women should behave, and that does influence how Noah treats Rose, but it makes the story ring true - you couldn't realistically expect that Noah would completely shed the beliefs that have defined his whole life the minute he meets Rose.

Ms. Hopkins writes a believable, compelling story - as well as the relationship between Rose and Noah, she also examines the dynamic of Rose's family, and her brothers in particular are also very important characters. This book is incredibly readable - and I didn't want it to end.

I said at the beginning that I thought this was a story with a happy ending, but I was wrong. Not that the ending isn't happy exactly, but it's not at all what I expected.  There is an excerpt of the next book at the end of Temptation that hints at the next book being even more compelling, and I will definitely be reading it.

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