Sunday, December 30, 2012

ChockaBlock With Puns and Little Green Aliens

First Paragraph:

"It would be fair to say that Tenalp, being the remotest of Earth's colony planets, had never attracted the finest minds. All the best people - the most intelligent, the most creative and the most highly skilled - has settled elsewhere, leaving Tenalp with what was left. So it was no surprise that many of the planet's inhabitants, particularly those at the higher levels of authority, were somewhat lacking in brilliance or, in Tenalp parlance, as dumb as a bag of bricks."

The Ultimate Inferior Beings by Mark Roman is a funny little, sci-fi find. Starting out on Tenalp (one of Earth's remotest colony planets) we meet jixX, a landscape architect who has unwillingly found himself the captain of a mission into space to discover why another spaceship (The Living Chrysalis) crashed.

JixX will be captaining the Night Ripple, a dangerously obsolete ship, whose greatest asset is LEP- the ship's computer- and the wonders his in-built wit-box provide him with. JixX's crew consists of four others; fluX the behavioural chemist- who is trying to prove the existence of God through puns; twaX the carpenter- who has never seen a real tree and dreams of chopping one down; anaX the gynaecologist with strange habits and finally sylx the professional stowaway- whose job it is to find real stowaways.

Together they battle to find a way home safely, with or without the others, and end up in just the kind of mishaps you can imagine. Whether it's because LEP has no sense of direction or just down to bad luck, they end up off target and at the mercy of green alien blobs (nicknamed the Mamms- as in Mammaliens). 

Maybe you've noticed, but all the names end in capital X, start with a lowercase letter and have four letters in total. This isn't really relevant to the review, I just thought I'd throw that little observation in. Also, there are a lot of puns in this book. Personally, I enjoy a good pun, but those of you who don't like that kind of humour should be warned. As for me, I found them hilarious, especially in context and with the other characters reactions to add to it. 

JixX is you're average grumpy, Englishman (is he English?) to me. He even reminded me a little of Arthur Dent (from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), but make no mistake, they are not the same person. Only small elements are similar. He had his own enjoyable personality.

I really liked anaX's character as well. I won't give anything away, but when you find out why she did what she did, it just adds the cherry on top of the "quirky" character pie.

At the end of the book we get a little glossary and a few appendixes, mostly about the history of the Mamms. They explain a little more about how they evolved and where Benjaminism came from. That's a religion by the way, in fact it's every religion they created ever.

The only criticism I have is that the ending was a bit abrupt. That and the plot felt a little thin- but then who says there even needs to be a plot? Some of the most successful books out there have no plot whatsoever. But if you are someone who likes plot, it's something to keep in mind. I would recommend it. It's an enjoyably good tale for any sic-fi lovers out there.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Vampires are Perverts and Detention Will Rob You Of Your Mind

The Complete Monster Exchange Program by Terri Bogard is a collection of humorous stories about monsters in an average, human high school. There are sixteen tales in total, ranging from two serial killers debating which one of them should have the rights to a popular teen spot, the lament of the invisible boy or Bigfoot desperately wanting people to notice him, these stories are quirky and full of comedic moments. Terri Bogard seems to especially enjoy turning our views on their sides. An example would be with a witches' mother, whose worried her daughter doesn't dress enough like a "whore of Satan" and that she'll be uncorrupted at a normal high school. Something we can all relate to, right?

There are a lot of sexual references in pretty much every one of these stories, so if that's not for you I'm giving due warning. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I got a little laugh out of the creative names for characters, such as Johnny Heartthrob and Darla Sweetheart- the generic prom king and queen couple, Cleats Longshot as the quarterback or Snaps Viewfinder- the captain of the yearbook committee.

Some of the stories intertwine, while still being consistent and it's fun to see how some of the characters from previous stories turn out in later ones or are viewed by other people. Each tale has its own cover illustration (courtesy of Andi Bogard) and a few stories are written by guest writers (including one by Andi Bogard himself).

This collection is funny, has some interesting alternate takes on reality and goes out of its way to be so stereotypically "high school" that you can't help but enjoy it. I would recommend it to anyone who wants a good laugh, likes "slice of life" stories or supernatural/paranormal tales. There are some interesting takes on urban legends that are not to be missed.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100%my own.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Good Old-Fashioned, Killer Vampires Take Over the World

     First Paragraph:

"By 2125 the world had been overthrown by monsters dubbed Century Vampires. Some kind of mutation in the human genome gave rise to the first ones, or so the scientists suspected. Vamps spent the first one-hundred years of their existence growing in number --some born, some turned --all deadly. They wreaked havoc for the past eight-three years."

Midnight: Century of Vampires by Ami Blackwelder is the first novella in the Century of Vampires Trilogy. It centres around Aura and Mark, two survivors fighting to keep it that way.

It's the year 2125 and vampires have taken over the world. They rule from 6pm to 6am and the only "safe" way to fight is bombing them as they sleep. No one is sure how vampires came to be, but some suspect there was a mutation to the human genome. Survivors are forced to hold down fort in abandoned buildings in small groups, hiding the twelve hours vampires hunt.

Our two protagonists have pretty similar backstories (as do all the survivors). Aura's mother was killed 5 years previously and her brother was taken and never seen again. She never knew her father. Mark's parents were killed when he was ten and his sister killed five years later.

The vampires of this world are more like the original vampires literature used to create than the ones around nowadays, in that they are dangerous killers. They sleep like bats, living in caves and hanging from the ceiling. They only become "beautiful" and "celestial" at midnight, appearing hollow skinned and creature-like before then. Their flesh rots on their bones and their eyes glow red.

Scattered throughout are a few illustrations, which are nice enough. Full-coloured illustrations for those interested.

I did find this book a little confusing, nothing is really explained and it just felt a little rushed. I don't know if questions will be answered in later parts though. I still found the story interesting. It's not really anything new, but then it doesn't have to be. I fully intend on reading the next two parts and (as novellas) they'll be quick enough reads.

One final issue, if you buy the kindle version, do NOT read the book club questions at the end as they hold definite spoilers- though reading them I found a few points predictable, especially if you're familiar at all with this genre.

If you like dystopian worlds, dangerous vampires and young adult books why not give this a try?

Disclaimer: I was sent this book by the author through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Haunting Tale of One Boy's Desire to Overcome Adversity, Find His Passion and Protect His Family

   First Paragraph:

"Mama always said Amal was mischievous. It was a joke we shared as a family- that my sister, just a few years old and shaky on her pudgy legs, had more energy for life than me and my younger brother Abbas combined. So when I went to check on her and she wasn't in her crib, I felt a fear in my heart that gripped me and would not let go."

The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti is a beautifully written story told from the point of view of Ichmad Hamid. Told in four parts (and spanning decades) it begins with a seven-year old Ichmad making us painfully aware of real horrors and what loss really means. From the first page the reader is fully aware it's not a story for the light-hearted. 

Living as a Palestinian in an Jewish Israeli controlled village, we start off in the 1950's, with Ichmad describing the horrofic circumstances and achingly real terror he feels living with soldiers that could destroy him and everything he loves at any given moment. 

Through the decades he grows and struggles with his emotions and assumptions of others. He has spent his life being threatened, hurt and watching all he loves being taken by Israeli Jews that he can't trust them and deeply fears them. As he learns more of the world with time, he begins to accept that not all Israelis are as he perceived them. However, his family is firmly agains the idea and Ichmad is so bound by obligation and duty to his family, so driven by it, that they motivate his every action. Fear confines him, but passion for his work and love drive him forward. He must come to terms and fully understand his hatred for a race with which the only contact he ever had was controlling, aggressive and cruel. The people who continuously robbed him of everything he had.

Ichmad has a unique gift. He is a mathematical genius and devotes his life to his cause, to his desire to learn, but he struggles to educate his family, to support them, especially his brother Abbas, whose hatred for Israelis Ichmad can never manage to overcome. His world is at war, Israel is in ruins and people are forced to live in wreckage and poverty. Living in a time when Palestinians hate the Jewish and Jewish Israelis hate the Palestinian Arabs, his life is constantly in turmoil. His younger self never feels safe, never has enough to eat and can only watch as his family suffers.

A beautiful, heart-wrenching story. An educational and painfully real look into the life of a Palestinian boy living under an Israeli regime in the 50's, still trying to break free decades later. He inspires us all. Rising out of the ashes to find his passion and save his family, constantly hitting walls and having to rebuild from scratch, always returning to his symbol of hope- the constant presence of an almond tree by his childhood home. Haunting and not to be missed.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Beware of Walking Your Dog, You May Find a Body

First Paragraph:

"It all started when my dog didn't come back to me. We had gone for our usual walk before bed, turning away from the rest of the houses on Wistler Road and heading out into the country. I let Wendy wander off leash and she trotted up on ahead. It was a beautiful spring night, the air soft and sweet from an earlier shower, delicious except for the whiff of cattle manure wafting in from the ranches outside of town. But I didn't mind. It was a small price to pay for living in the Rocky Mountain Foothills. There were no street lights on this stretch of road, so I took my time and watched my step."

Amazon / 

Road Kill by CM Spencer is a cozy mystery set in Chinook, a small town in Canada. We follow the life of Anna Nolan, starting with (while out walking her dog) literally stumbling across the body of her estranged ex-husband (Jack)- and then immediately being found my a local cop over said body. 

Evidence against her piles up and Anna has real reason to investigate his death. Which is to say, so she can prove her innocence. However- as she puts it- she's more of a liability to the police, bumbling around and damaging her case. Not only that, it puts her on Sergeant Charles Tremaine's (a British investigator brought in for the case) bad side. Constantly getting in his way and on his nerves. 

As her life unravels and she struggles to find not only Jack's killer, but also peace after memories best left forgotten resurface. When she had been married to Jack, he had had a string of affairs. Anna's response had been to look the other way. Her reason was simple. She now had a son and no steady job or income. Without Jack to provide either, she would have to live of welfare. So instead she turned a blind eye until, years later, she finally draws the line and ends it. Now four years after that, her determination to find his killer leads her to meeting some of his past affairs. There are suspects galore and she's determined to find the guilty party.

Of course there are obstacles along the way. Meeting some of the women your husband cheated on you with is no small task, let alone trying to surreptitiously question them about his murder. Talk of Jack also brings to light his situation with Ben, Anna and Jack's 19 year old son. Having had no contact with his father for years, he is dealing with abandonment issues, hatred of the man his father had been and also love of the man who was the only father he had.

There are humorous attempts on Anna's part to ferret out the killer and prove herself to the police, especially Charles Tremaine. As a cozy mystery, it's a pretty light-hearted read. Though usually cozy mysteries have two points of interest- the murder and a subject the protagonist is passionate about. Generally, these will be tea rooms, flower shops or similar things to which the murder takes a back-seat. However, in this book the cozy mystery feel comes from the same writing style as with Agatha Christie books. They tell of grisly murders and yet somehow are pleasant to read, hence "cozy" mystery.

The ending is entertainingly Bond-ish. We have a dramatic villain who spouts all the usual cliches, even finishing off with an I'm-going-to-have-to-kill-you-now statement. Enjoyable to read nevertheless. The only criticism I have is that the story can be a little slow moving at times. Cozy mysteries often rely upon a second point of focus to help keep interest as the murder investigation takes place. As I said earlier, that doesn't happen here and the result is a missing second focus point. However, we do have some side-stories and entertaining events, so it's certainly not a reason not to read this book.

If you're looking for a good cozy mystery, a little bit of romance or just a nice read this is great for you. 

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Darker Side of Humanity

  First Paragraph:

  "Bartolo Aguilar squatted beside a rutted dirt road in the Anza-Borrego Desert, two hours east of San Diego, and savoured the emotional and spiritual insanity of the woman who was watching the dying girl spasming in the sand, gurgling and frothing, her bloodshot eyes rolled up in her head so that they looked like a pair of crimson moons."

The Black Song Inside by Carlyle Clark and Suki Michelle focuses on two recently engaged private investigators (Atticus and Rosemary) who find themselves "up to their necks in it" involved with the Tijuana drug cartel.

Set in San Diego, their story begins with Atticus' old flame asking for his help solving the execution style murder of her boyfriend. Unfortunately for our protagonists, this puts them in direct sight of some very dangerous people, all of whom will stop at nothing to get what they (or their very powerful bosses) want.

Meanwhile, both our leading roles have their own problems to deal with. Atticus had a traumatic childhood and grew up as an African-American dealing with a lot of bigotry, whilst Rosemary had a dysfunctional family, an aggressive, violent brother and a tour in Iraq that left her with PTSD and a missing right leg, as well as panic attacks when she gets behind the wheel.

Together, they must try to solve the murder, figure out who's after them and why, try to survive the entire Tijuana Crime Cartel (as well as various other threats) baying for their blood and keep their relationship together. In one corner we have a man known as "The Priest", who has founded his own religion and is the sole member of what he calls the Church of the Aloned. His only goal is to open the eyes of humanity to the farce that is civilisation in his eyes, break them down and make them rely on the only thing that matters- instinct. He has no mercy and cares for no one. The entire Bible of the Church of Aloned consists of a map he found as a child soldier in the jungles of Colombia, with the words "Beyond Here Be Monsters" scrawled on the edge, which he took to heart.

The big players in the cartel itself are Armando Villanueva, Lieutenant to the head of the cartel- Ferdinand Del Castillo- who himself runs the entire drug empire for Tijuana Cartel. Aside from these threats, we also have Rosemary's angry brother (who happens to have his own gang- Los Lobos Locos) gunning for Atticus' blood out of pure hate of the man.

Out of all the antagonists I found The Priest the most terrifying. Whereas the rest of them are doing it for money, power or hate, The Priest is simply doing it out of obsession. It's clear he's not completely on the rails, but how far off them is unclear. He has the same masochistic rituals that are reminiscent of the priest from the Da Vinci Code. He scrubs himself down with pumice and does intense exercises that he calls "worshipping". The character himself is very different from the Da Vinci Code priest though- apart from both being religious fanatics who seems to have a thing for S&M.

The story starts off slowly and begins to pick up pace, building more and more tension as we reach the end. There are many different plots going on at once, so some get sidelined a little at times, but they are all brought crashing together for the finale.

The ending itself is well done, full of seat-gripping tension and with an ambiguousness that leaves you not completely at ease.

A great thriller, murder-mystery novel for anyone who isn't turned away by violence, bad language  or  the gritty realism that comes from telling a story filled with drug rings, human trafficking and murder.

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the authors through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Woke Up in Medieval England as a Fox?

                                                       First Paragraph:   

"She ran. There was a roaring in her ears. Her legs moved leadenly. She willed them to move faster, but they merely staggered uselessly. Fear had robbed her of coordination. Time slowed. She was shaking. She knew she wouldn't get away, couldn't get away. Tina pushed her. She stumbled backwards, legs trembling. There was nowhere to go. Her fear was a kind of sickness in her mouth. Tina's thin, pinched face was contorted into a mask of spite. Tina's face was centimetres from her own face. It blotted out everything. Tina grabbed a hank of hair, right near the scalp. It shocked her; rough hands, the strength of Tina's hands."


Hunted by N. M. Browne is a book I discovered in my early teens. I would say the intended audience is younger readers and young adult, but I still enjoy it almost ten years on. The only thing is that the writing can seem a little young at times, but the fascinating and unusual story more than make up for it.

We follow two main characters, Karen and Mowl, as the narrative brings them together in a very original way. Though Karen is the true main character, the story is told from both their points of view, alternately switching between the two. I know sometimes that can be irritating, but it works in this book.

The story starts with Karen (in modern England) being chased by a group of girls, ultimately ending up with her in a coma. She wakes up in a different world ( a very ambiguous one at that) as a fox. She is still herself, but her memories are fractured and she can't remember anything distinctly. This means that she survives through her fox instincts, which can so strong that they completely drown out her own thoughts and feelings. Also, though this world has some magic realism, as a fox she cannot speak or understand human speech. As you can imagine, this makes the whole situation a lot worse and very difficult for her to deal with. I can't even begin to wonder what the mind would go through waking up in a different world and time (as this second world is set in the past, in what I guess is medieval England) as a fox and on top of all that, no longer being able to communicate.

Across her travels, she meets and is befriended by Mowl, a shepherd boy in his teens. Mowl becomes hunted by the Militia, as they believe his estranged father (Mowl being an orphan with no knowledge of his family) killed the king. As his son, Mowl is also blamed. 

Together, Mowl and Karen must find their way through a world in a state of oppression, where talk of  revolution clings to the air and any suspected are hanged for treason and their loved ones hurt and killed. The king is under the influence of his advisor. The Militia is vast, strong and ruthless, killing without qualm.

Magic of a kind exists in this world, but more on a spiritual level. There are Adepts that can sense things on a higher plane and also sense peoples' emotions and desires. Some also believe in awls- beings from a higher tier who briefly visit their world. However, the king and his Purple Path are working to wipe all this out, building temples and charging taxes to make people believe there is nothing beyond their own world and killing all those who disagree. Rebellion is a whisper in the breeze, as many cannot survive the harsh winters with the new taxes.

The world itself, as I stated earlier, is ambiguous. We get small snippets of Karen is hospital from her grandparents' point of view, so it's unclear whether the second world is real or just a dream Karen is having during her coma.

Hunted is a great read, the characters are real and throughout the story the tension is constant and building. My only real criticism is that the ending is a little abrupt. I won't spoil it, but I would've liked to know just a little more than is given, but on the whole it's a great book. If you don't like books for younger audiences, but are interested in the premise, try checking it out of the library. I would definitely recommend Hunted. It was one of my favourites when I was younger and still holds a special place for me.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Apocalypse Has Landed, Who Can Save Our Souls?

First Paragraph:

"She wasn't exactly sure what drew her back to the spot day after day. Apprehension? Anticipation? Reality check? As Cameron rounded the corner of the dimly lit hallway and saw the door, she felt a small tug of disappointment that it was still closed. Of course it was closed. The only time it had ever been opened was the day they entered the underground bunker. It was one of her earliest memories."

 Amazon /

Twisted Souls is the second book in the Twisted Souls Trilogy by Cege Smith. There will be spoilers of the first book in this review, but if you're interested you can check out my review of the Soul Garden (first book) on my blog here:
If you haven't read it I strongly urge you to. It's a great book, hence why I'm continuing the series.

Last warning spoilers of the first book start now. Twisted Souls takes place 9 months after the ending of the Soul Garden. Our small group of protagonists (comprising of Malcolm, Samuel, Bishop and Cameron) have been living in an underground bunker, whilst Chim (and a mind-controlled Marius) reap the world of its souls. In the previous book it was mentioned that certain crimes result in soul extraction as a punishment, but that there are extensive rules to make sure it's done safely. In this book, when Chim orders Marius to take a soul, it is ripped out forcibly from the person, leaving them a flesh-hungry zombie.

As with the last book, the story is told through more than one person's point of view. The three in this book being Cameron, Samuel and Marius.

At the end of the Soul Garden Cameron was just 6 months old, but it seems that with the soul she received, she ages rapidly and is now 18 years old. She has never been outside the 10 room bunker and learns everything from Samuel- who is training her to be the Champion. Her mind ages as well, so it's not a case of a 1 year old mind in and 18 year old body. I can only assume she aged so quickly, because the Champion is needed as soon as possible and actually waiting 18 years wouldn't have been very efficient.

Meanwhile, Marius is in and out of consciousness as the souls inside him threaten to tear both his body and mind apart. He is desperately seeking release, but is forced by Chim to gather more and more souls, adding to his pain even more.

With his own magic and Marius to fight with, Chim has completely taken over, leaving hordes of zombies in his wake. After Before, all guns were destroyed, so any survivors are forced to improvise to stay alive.

There is also a little romance added in, which is hardly surprising. Nothing like an apocalypse to bring people together.

Filled with suspense, I'm on tenterhooks waiting for the final book. Twisted Souls sets up the characters for the inevitable showdown that will eventually take place. Fighting for the side of Light, we have Cameron (whose never even seen the sky), Samuel (the new Head Master), Malcolm (the protective father grieving for his wife) and Bishop (the gardener). An unusual team, but the only hope humanity has.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Could You Overcome Your Fear to Be What You Dreamed?

  First Paragraph:

"She's done it then," said Sarah in that matter-of-fact way of hers, as if our employer committing suicide was an everyday occurrence."

      Amazon /

Love of Shadows by Zoe Brooks is the second instalment in the Healer's Shadow trilogy, I was lucky enough to win a copy of the first book, Girl in the Glass, in a member giveaway on Librarything and, once I'd read that, I had to keep going.

This review will contain spoilers of the first book, so if you haven't read Girl in the Glass yet, (and don't like spoilers) stop here and go read it. I have a review of the first book, so please check it out if you're interested: This link goes to a copy of the review on my blog. Final warning, spoilers start now.

The start of Love of Shadows begins where the first ended. Judith struggles to stay stay afloat whilst dealing with Elma's death and the consequences and difficulties that follow. Her demons threaten to destroy her and anyone she cares for. The law is advancing and persecuting healers everywhere and all the while Judith tries desperately to listen to her calling, knowing she will be hanged if found guilty.

But as disease and violence threaten her world, it becomes harder for her to deny herself. Harder to hide the truth. Can she heal and keep her secret safe and hidden? Tragedies befall her and darkness threatens to overcome and engulf. Old characters return, new ones appear. This time Judith is older and dealing with issues the first book raised, but hadn't yet addressed.

There are also a few more details revealed about the mystery surrounding Shadows. While the full reveal will no doubt be in the next book, we do learn quite a bit more. Some questions are answered, more are raised and I'm really intrigued to see where it all ends up in the final book.

A great sequel to the first book that leaves me on the edge of my seat for the final instalment. If you loved the first book (and for some reason haven't yet read this one) definitely continue with Love of Shadows. I'm eagerly awaiting the last book and conclusion to the Healer's Shadow Trilogy.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What If Souls Were Given and Could Be Taken?

First Paragraph:

"There was Before and then there was Now. Do not grieve the loss of Before. It was a wicked time when people turned away from the Light, and for their sins they were punished. Rejoice in the Light and Rejoice in the Now for it is your salvation."

  Amazon /

Set in the very distant future, The Soul Garden is the first in a new series by Cege Smith. We are only given a few details about this world and the rest is left pretty ambiguous. The past is know as Before, where some apocalyptic event occurred that humanity had to drag itself out of, or so I imagine from what we're told.

In this world, babies are born soulless. When a human has no soul their appearance is different; they have grey skin, don't smile, don't generate warmth and have red-rimmed eyes that get redder with age, eventually taking over the entire eye. For babies (or adults) to get a soul they must go through the Soul Distribution Day, where the lucky chosen receive a soul from the Soul Fountain. Souls can also be extracted and this is often a punishment for criminals. Murder results in soul extraction, but as souls are in short demand the extracted souls are "rehabilitated" and re-used.

This era is very "protocol" heavy, adults are assigned jobs at a ceremony, women are expected to give up their jobs once married and even having children is heavily monitored. Couples are selected out of a lottery. Any couple that wants a child applies and then hopes for the best. The population is regulated because there is a shortage of souls. If a couple disobeys the rules and have a child outside of the system, their souls are extracted and the child is left, soulless, in the Soulless Asylum.

An interesting concept for a book. There are aspects of the Soul Ceremony that I found similar to baptism. I'm not sure if it was intended, but before the ceremony at the fountain, babies are soulless, unloved and are seen as unnatural. Then a visit to the fountain with a gathering and incantations gives them a soul. It was an interesting similarity that I saw, maybe just me though.

The story is narrated from the points of view of five people and (given the amount of time we get we each of them) they are relatable, we care for them and the switching of characters adds to the tension that starts to build when we realise the inevitable.

I enjoyed the start of the Twisted Souls series and look forward to the next part. I recommend this to anyone interested in apocalyptic worlds, the supernatural, magic or anyone who is intrigued by the synopsis.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. My opinions are 100% my own.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Famous Five Meets Tintin

     Amazon /

The Mystery of Smugglers Cove by Paul Moxham is the first in his new The Mystery Series. Set in 1950's England, we follow a group of four children (Joe, Amy, Sarah and Will) on their adventures.

The first book starts it all off. Three siblings meet a fourth member and together they explore the local caves and get a greater adventure than even their imaginations could have thought of.

Reading the first book is very reminiscent of the Famous Five series by Enid Blyton. The author himself states that he took inspiration from it and it really shows. I was a huge fan of the 1995 tv series and it was a large part of my childhood, so reading this book has the rosy tint of nostalgia added to it. Anyone familiar with the Famous Five will know what to expect from these books. Great childrens' adventure stories that never disappoint.

However, this story is not nearly as well-written as their inspiration source. The children are just a little off, and the characters all make nonsensical decisions. They're nowhere near as likeable, and their 'adventurous spirit' mostly comes off as stupidity or foolishness. 

I don't think this is a terrible book. I think comparing it to what it so obviously tries to pay homage to is expecting too much. 

Overall, it's not a book that will become a children's classic, but that doesn't mean it's not worth reading. Perhaps the other books in the series are better done.

This series could be good for any younger readers, any readers nostalgic for the good old days and especially any fans of the Famous Five series, but maybe just go for that series instead.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

For All Those Who Have Ever Doubted Themselves

First Paragraph:

"Hey guys! We should be there in about ten minutes. Start gathering up any trash, and make sure you have all your stuff with you when you get out of the van. I may have to park a little distance away from the school, and you will not be waking me up at midnight to go looking for the iPod you left under the seat."

           Amazon /

Girl on a Mission by Cindy Ellis

Starring Emery Craig, our 13-year-old leading lady (or girl), this story revolves around helping those less fortunate and showing what a difference someone can make to another's life, with just the smallest actions. 

On her first mission trip, going to Crawley, West Virginia, Emery starts out as a shy girl who eventually grows into her skin and gains confidence through people she meets, situations she's put in and confirmation of her beliefs. She watches real suffering, feels real pain and experiences her first real romance.

I was very fascinated with the character of Mr.Suitor. He is so very human and his story is deeply moving and well told. For me, this book has two main characters, Emery and Mr.Suitor. Together they carry the story well and, once into the second half of the book, they really shine. The plot is simple enough, but written so that you feel what the characters do, you experience the same fear, dread, happiness, love and it's all down to the writing.

Now the religious elements were done well enough. I myself am not religious and older readers or those like myself (without religion) may find certain parts of the book a little preachy or even condescending. However, I enjoyed this book, so it's not distracting enough that I couldn't appreciate the storyline. 

I would say this book is aimed at younger readers, just in their teens or tweens, because the main character is more relatable, but mostly because it's very moral heavy. There are a lot of them wedged in there, so older readers may not enjoy that aspect so much, but overall it's a nice, feel-good story about growing up, overcoming obstacles and accepting yourself. I recommend it to anyone who never really felt like they fit in, who may be afraid to let their true personalities shine through, any younger readers who just want a nice read, any older readers who want to recapture memories of their youth or anyone (especially younger readers) who doubts their belief in God. Whether or not this will help your faith I can't comment on, but it's always good to get someone else's perspective and to know you're not alone.

Disclaimer: I was sent this book through a Librarything giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own. If you want to learn more about Librarything, you can do so here:

Monday, November 12, 2012

Highschool, Romance and the Trusty Old Battle Between Good and Evil

     First Paragraph:

"As the day began, I didn't know it would change my life forever. No one prepared me for something like this. Not parents, teachers or guidance counselors. Walking through the front doors and down the hallway of Millennium High School in New York City, I thought today would be just like any other ordinary day. Long, boring and dreadful. Take your pick. I wasn't anyone popular. There was nothing special about me that made the guys drool.

She Speaks to Angels by Ami Blackwelder is the first in a trilogy of books surrounding 17-year-old Allison (Ali) Maney. Kicking it all off in the first book is the death of a popular quarterback from her school. Together with her friends Molly and Jennifer- and a passion for journalism- they investigate the events surrounding and leading up to his death. Then things start to get interesting.
I won't give any spoilers, so I can't be too detailed with the plot, but Ali finds herself torn between two men, a battle between light and dark and truths that plunge her into the deep end and will change her world forever.

There were moments that (dare I say) were a little reminiscent of the Twilight series- emphasis on a little. There were a few a few characters and situations that had vague similarities, but I wouldn't compare them, especially once you get deeper into the story.

The writing style was what kept me hooked. Ami Blackwelder has a way of phrasing things that keeps you gripped and I found myself reading through it in a day. I just couldn't put it down. I would call this first book more of a set-up for the coming two, where we learn about the characters, the world they live in and are given enough information to get into the heavier stuff.

I would recommend this to anyone who likes young fiction, romance or the supernatural. A great read and I look forward to the next instalment.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Book That Has You Wondering, "What Would I Do?"

Fifty/Fifty and Other Stories by Matthew W. McFarland is a collection of 11 short stories. The plot of each of these ranges from a very short story of a man's love for his trumpet, a man's final thoughts as he plummets to Earth and a policeman trying to convince someone not to jump and everything in between.

The stories themselves range from only around 3 pages to 15 or so. Each one is worth reading, no matter how short. I was pleasantly surprised by this short book. The descriptive writing is fantastic and, as most of the stories can be a little ambiguous, it's the description that carries them. Even the characters themselves are ambiguous, with only 3 or so characters given names and most not even given a specific gender- though I would guess that most of the characters are male.

The tie-in that connects all the stories would be their tone. With a few exceptions, most of them deal with quite dark or disturbing topics. Not dark enough to be horror, but certainly not light-hearted. A few of them will make you laugh and a few will make your blood run cold.

A short read I would definitely recommend. Fantastic writing and realistic characters, with a very thought-provoking look into the human mind and the way we deal with different situations.

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the author through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

A Quick Introduction and Explanation of Librarything

So since a lot of the books I've been reviewing lately came from Librarything, I thought I would do a quick post on it.

For those who don't know, Librarything is a book review website. Anyone can sign up (and yes it's free) and anyone can post reviews. Now, here's the best part. Every month they have a batch of books (hundreds of titles) up for grabs (in what they call the Early Reviewers section). All you do is go to the page and then you can request any books you're interested in. There is no limit to how many you can request, but be aware that you may have to review a lot of books if you win them (this is mostly true for the member give ways- more on that in a second). All they ask in return is that you review the book. You have 2 months to do so after you've received it. Reviewing the books will give you more chances of winning books in the next batch, but the content of your review will not. In other words, honest reviews. As long as you follow their guidelines -such as, no bad language, no one word reviews, etc- it won't matter to them if your review is positive, negative or neutral. You don't get paid for your reviews, you just get the satisfaction of a free book and (hopefully) a good read. What more can you ask for really.

Now onto the member giveaway section. It works in much the same way, except this time those giving away the books are members. A lot of the time it will be authors wanting to share their newest books or sometimes it will just be members who want to get rid of books or just want to give back. These books will each have their own closing date, so you can check back regularly for new giveaways. From personal experience I have found that I win more from the member giveaways than from the early reviewers. This is probably just because the member giveaways are more frequent and don't generally last as long.

The format of the books you can win will be either; physical; e-book or audiobook (though these are few). Most of the early reviewers section consists of physical books, but I have yet to win one. That doesn't stop me from requesting them, but I also make sure I put in requests for e-book copies too. Sometimes a book you want in physical form will also be available in e-book form, so you have two chances at winning a copy. Member giveaways tend to vary depending, but I would say they lean more towards e-books. However, for all those out there who are not a fan of e-book (I definitely prefer the physical thing) you have much more chance of winning them than the physical books for one simple reason- numbers. Yes, e-books are generally cheaper and there are no shipping costs involved in sending them out, so publishers/authors can giveaway more copies of that book than those giving away physical copies. So, e-books win that argument I'm afraid.

Anyway, if you're interesting in the website the link is But remember, this isn't just a site for free books, you do HAVE to review them.

Librarything is also a great community for book lovers. It is a fantastic way to find out about great books, to meet like-minded people and to meet authors as well. If you have any other queries just ask me and I'll do my best to answer any and all questions. And just for the record, I am not affiliated with Librarything (just obsessed), this is not a sponsored message, all opinions are 100% my own.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Delicious Food, Romance and a Sardinian Mystery

First Paragraph:

"Clara had long suspected that Paolo was going to propose soon. They'd been together for four years, and recently he'd been trying to tell her something, but always postponed at the last minute. He would get nervous, his hands would go cold and sweaty, and his words would get tangled. This was a clear signal that what he wanted to say was important, but perhaps, he didn't quite know how to say it. Clara had decided to make things easier for him, so she's suggested, on this occasion, that they ought to go for a romantic walk by the mountains. He loved being outdoors, and particularly hill walking."

  Amazon / 

A Deal with a Stranger by Marina Munzittu is set in Sardinia, in the city of Cagliari, we follow the story of 25 year old Clara, as -day by day- her world destabilises a little more, starting with meeting an old man in a forest.

The plot is an interesting one, varying between predictable and completely new. Or rather there are elements that are predictable. I would say the romance was a little, just because we've seen it a million times, but that doesn't mean the plot or writing is bad. I'll come back to this in a second, but I want to talk about the plot itself first. The concept is fantastic. I think the idea of a stranger coming into your life and making this kind of deal with you (not giving anything away) is original and thought-provoking and this mixed with the consequences (and some bad luck) lead to an unusual turn of events. The nonsensical logic and unlikeliness of it all are still realistic and kept me hooked.

Back to the romance. Anyone who loves a good, light romance novel will like this. It's nothing new, but mixed with the plot it works. And no one says it has to be new to work. There's a reason the old formulas are used.

The characters themselves- I have to admit, I didn't like at the start. They seemed a bit stereotypical and could sometimes be unnecessarily cruel and harsh, but they do grow on you and become more human as the story progresses and more is revealed about them and we see them deal with the good, the bad and the ugly.

Something of a side note here, but I also enjoyed the description of the foods mentioned. Our protagonist had a bit of a weakness for delicious food and doesn't spare the details when describing them. But be warned, you will want something delicious to munch on when reading this book.

Overall, I enjoyed the story. I wasn't immediately pulled in, but I'm glad I kept reading as I got a good read out of it. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Italy or a lover of romance novels. If you're travelling to Italy soon and want a light, holiday read, why not try this one out.

Disclaimer: This was sent to me by the author through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Shadows, Fear and a Lust For Freedom

  First Paragraph:

"I can tell you nothing about my mother's death. Not because I didn't see it, but because I did. I sometimes say, when people ask, that she died of the sickness. But that is a lie and I don't want to lie to you. What I will tell you is that just before she died she told me to be brave and in my childish way I decided that she meant I shouldn't cry. I didn't. Not then, nor in all the years that have passed since her death. Not once have I cried. I no longer know how."

"I am Anya and I am nothing."

Girl in the Glass is a story about two girls, Anya and her Shadow Eva. In this world, Shadows are people who aren't human, but look mostly like us. As far as I can interpret, they look human, but give of an air that makes it obvious they aren't. They are a little reminiscent of the demons from Philip Pullman's Northern Lights series. However, not everyone in this world has a Shadow and a lot of prejudice follows them around. The main similarity is that Shadows are like a  conscience, always doing the right thing and ever practical, but with no emotions to cloud their judgements. This makes for very interesting reading, watching the differences between how the two girls react and change depending on the situations they're presented. Eva is always steadfast, but Anya (in a very human way) is corrupted and can sometimes even be unlikable and cruel.

Set in the desert town of Darkan, the story starts with a 12 year old Anya and spans a few years. It's broken into three parts and in each one of these the two girls have a new identity. In the first part, Anya is dealing with the deaths of her parents from the plague and now lives with a very abusive family, with her aunt at the head. We follow her through her journey of not only growing up, but also watching her try to find her freedom and happiness.

One of the main praises I have is the writing style, specifically the descriptive writing. The scenes are laid out so well, the imagery is fantastic and the emotions weaved in are amazing. This is one of the few books I have read where I could feel the tension throughout. Whether it be from fear of a person, fear of discovery or even something as simple, but terrifying as poverty. As well as this tension, there is also a constant feel of defiance throughout, against the people who hurt her, against harsh environments and against life itself. The unwillingness to give up or give in that makes Anya such a great character to follow.

Overall, I really enjoyed this read. It is the first in a trilogy and the second (Love of Shadows) came out this month. You can bet I will be following the progress of this series to its conclusion.

Disclaimer: I was sent this book by the author through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.