Thursday, 27 February 2014

Review: Into the Vampire City by Phil Tucker

 Into the Vampire City by Phil Tucker book cover

Title: Into the Vampire City
Author: Phil Tucker
Series: The Human Revolt, #1
Format: Kindle
My rating: 1.5 / 5

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The Vampire War is over, and Miami has been walled off and given to the undead. The innocents within live like animals, not knowing if they will survive the night, playthings for their vampire masters.

When seventeen-year-old Selah Brown's father disappears while investigating the new drug 'Blood Dust', she masters her terror, abandons her quiet life, and follows his trail into the rotten heart of Miami. Yet despite her attempts to lie low, once inside her investigations bring her to the attention of the handsome rebel leader Cloud... and the darkly seductive vampire known only as The Dragon.

But there is more at stake than Selah can possibly imagine - the secrets she uncovers are so terrible they might start Vampire War anew.

[Formerly titled: Vampire Miami]

-- As seen on Goodreads

My Thoughts

Into the Vampire City started off really well, and I made some highlights and notes on my kindle stating that I really liked it; that it’s looking promising. But I don’t know what went wrong. I can’t pinpoint an exact moment where my feelings changed. In theory, I should love this book; an interesting dystopian twist with vampires that act like vampires. What can possibly be wrong?

Well, the problem is, I feel… nothing, absolutely nothing. And I don’t know why. I don’t have a set of “this is exactly why I don’t like it” reasons either.

My main stumbling block: I couldn’t connect with Selah. I suspect this could stem from the choice of point of view. The story is told in the third person, and I think a first person approach might have suited it better. It could have helped create a rapport between myself and the MC, as we see through her eyes. The way the story is presented at present, left me feeling like an unwanted bystander looking in on her life. She is one tough character, and I like this attribute in MC’s; yet others that I have found this in have some form of likability and an approachable quality. I didn’t find that here.

The whole book has an unpolished quality. A little smoothing here and there and you could have a good story for a certain type of reader. I can’t say who that is, but unfortunately it’s not me.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

January 2014: The Highs, Lows and Everything in Between.

I intended to have my January roundup posted a while ago, but unfortunately I was ill for the first couple of weeks of February, and blogging was one of the last things on my mind. But, anyway! Back to the important stuff: Books!

January was a really good month. I read a total of fourteen books: eleven of those I rated 3 stars and above. It’s even better when those books are written by a new-to-you author: that can only mean the possibility of even more books you can love. I really hope this trend continues for the rest of 2014. And yes, I hope I don’t regret those words!

I love when I find a book that ends up surprising me. When you start out reading, you have low expectations, but by its conclusion, you end up completely absorbed and invested in the story and the characters. This didn’t just happen once: it happened four times! Each of these books was written by new-to-me authors, and some are the first books in a series or trilogy. And these little gems are: The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan; Trinity: Military War Dog by Ronie Kendig; Defying the Odds by Kele Moon and The Better to Bite by Cynthia Eden. Each one has memorable and distinctive characters that I love to find in my books, with well-crafted and believable worlds.

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan Book Cover

My January Book of the Month is: The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan.

This book surprised me on so many levels! I adored the descriptions of Paris and life as a Chocolatier, and I found Anna to be a really likeable narrator. But I will warn you, you might need a couple of tissues handy for what happens in the last chapter. It's a book that will stay with you for a long time. Plus, there are lots of yummy chocolate recipes at the end. I haven't tried any of them yet, but I definitely will at some stage!

Fracture, by C.J. Daugherty is a very close second. In fact, I almost gave it 5 stars rather than 4.5. It is the third book in the Night School series, which is near the top of my all-time favourite series list. This is one of those books where you are kept in the dark, and have no clue what is happening, but you love it anyway. Night School I originally rated 4 stars (on Goodreads), but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Every time I saw it on my bookshelf, I kept being reminded of different things from the book, and this usually only happens with books I rate 5 stars or higher. If I ever do a re-read, I probably will bump the rating up to match this. I highly recommend it – but, if you are considering starting the series, read the books order… pretty please! I think you will lose so much detail and meaning if it’s read out of sequence. The fourth book, Resistance, is set to be released this summer, and I can't wait to get my paws on it ASAP!

These weren’t the only books that stood out. The Dead of Night by John Marsden; Ink by Amanda Sun; The Bell Between Worlds by Ian Johnstone; Artichoke’s Heart by Suzanne Supplee and Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon all have positive merits. The Dead of Night is the second book in the Tomorrow series, and it continues on from Tomorrow, When the War Began. I loved this edition even more than the first. It had a realness that the first one skimmed over. Artichoke’s Heart is another solid read that I enjoyed, but found a couple of little things that ended up irritating me a bit too much to warrant a higher rating than 3.5 roses.

Ink by Amanda Sun is set in Japan, and she describes the country so authentically. You can tell she has first-hand knowledge of the customs and day-to-day life and was able to portray this in her work – definitely the highlight of the book. Now, I’m Irish, and one thing that really bothers me is when non-Irish authors try to set a book set in Ireland, and portray the country incorrectly. I hate, no, scratch that, I will really enjoy popping this bubble, but we don’t live in bogs, huddled up in tiny stone cottages with thatched roofs burning peat in open fires and cycling everywhere to get around. *raises an eyebrow at a certain author that did this* But back to Ink: I liked Tomohiro and Katie, especially their dialogue together. But I’m not as convinced of them as characters when taken separately. I thought Tomo was a little plain, but likeable. Katie is American, and I felt she became overly Japanese way to quickly to be believable. I am curious about the series, so I will continue with the second book when it’s released.

Check out my reviews for The Bell Between Worlds by Ian Johnstone, and Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon. Both were solid reads but I had a couple of little issues which I discuss in my reviews.

My disappointments for January were Evermore by Alyson Noel; Miss Match by Nicola Yeager and Gateway to Faerie by M.D. Bowden. Evermore didn’t live up to the hype, and both Miss Match and Gateway to Faerie were all-round annoying. In regards to Miss Match: I love sarcastic humour in a novel, but you have to be very careful it doesn’t come across as pretentious. Unfortunately, I didn’t work for me.

Overall, January 2014 was a great reading month. Now, if the remaining eleven months continue on like this, my favourites’ shelf will get a lot of new additions.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Review: Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon

Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon book cover

Title: Dead Beautiful
Author: Yvonne Woon
Series: Dead Beautiful, #1
Format: Paperback, owned
My rating: 3.5 / 5

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On the morning of her sixteenth birthday, Renée Winters was still an ordinary girl. She spent her summers at the beach, had the perfect best friend, and had just started dating the cutest guy at school. No one she'd ever known had died. But all that changes when she finds her parents dead in the Redwood Forest, in what appears to be a strange double murder.

After the funeral Renée’s wealthy grandfather sends her to Gottfried Academy, a remote and mysterious boarding school in Maine, where she finds herself studying subjects like Philosophy, Latin, and the “Crude Sciences.”

It’s there that she meets Dante Berlin, a handsome and elusive boy to whom she feels inexplicably drawn. As they grow closer, unexplainable things begin to happen, but Renée can’t stop herself from falling in love. It’s only when she discovers a dark tragedy in Gottfried’s past that she begins to wonder if the Academy is everything it seems.

Little does she know, Dante is the one hiding a dangerous secret, one that has him fearing for her life.

Dead Beautiful is both a compelling romance and thought-provoking read, bringing shocking new meaning to life, death, love, and the nature of the soul

-- As seen on Goodreads

My Thoughts

Zombies. Not my usual supernatural creature of choice, but hey, I'll be open-minded. First off, let me stress, I think this book has oodles of potential. I really liked the thinking surrounding death and the Undead, and how they are created. I found it absorbing and it could have been turned into a wonderful – and dare I say, quite original – story. My BIG issue: It contained so many “Twilight Moments” it took the emphasis away from those interesting qualities. It cheapened the story, leaving many areas to find issues with. Let me clarify: It is not so much what happens, it is how is happens I have a problem with.

For example: Let’s be honest, when we were in school, the vast majority of us shared a class with the person we were currently crushing on. It happens! That’s normal. Great. Brilliant. BUT! Why, oh why, in Dead Beautiful, does the class they share have to be a science class? And Renee and Dante end up lab partners? Complete with a scene in the dark where they can get nice and cuddly (YA style of course)?

Also, the way Dante and Renee are interacting with each other: quite a few instances in their dialogue were ringing bells with what Edward says to Bella, or vice versa. Have a look at this:

“Renee, what if I hurt you? I would never forgive myself”

“You won’t hurt me, I know you won’t”, I said, raising my hand to his face. He pressed it against his cheek.

“You don’t understand. You don’t know what I’m capable of. I’m afraid to touch you, in case I break you; I’m afraid to talk to you, afraid you’ll realise that I’m a monster. But every day you’re still here” he gazed at me. “I can barely control myself when I’m around you.”

I swear I read something very similar in Twilight. I confess, when I read this part, I had to put the book down and walk away for a while.

Oh, and a requirement that most Twilight-esque YA books should have: The confession of being seventeen, told in a mountainous forest – I mean there are no other ways this information could be found out, or other locations where this conversation could take place… None at all! *rolls-eyes*

Also, the Board of Monitors, and what they represent, reminds me of Night School – a series by C.J. Daugherty that I adore. That series also takes place in an academy by the way. Actually, quite a lot of the academia side of this book rings familiar bells.

It’s a shame, because, when I pull away all these familiar parts, what was left I did enjoy reading. I read this book in about two and a half days. At 505 pages, it’s not a short read! It captured and held my attention, and I wanted to find out what was going to happen as quickly as possible. As I said above, it has the potential to be a really brilliant story. I’m just really frustrated that it seems necessary to follow the Twilight timeline to create a YA book these days. I beg you, leave Twilight where it is! Move on, please! Create something even better. I’m on the fence about continuing with the series. Right now, I will, but it’ll depend on my mood if I come across Life Eternal on my next shopping binge. <-- Yes I confess, I am quite the shopaholic when it comes to books…

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Review: The Bell Between Worlds, by Ian Johnstone

book cover

Title: The Bell Between Worlds
Author: Ian Johnstone
Series: The Mirror Chronicles, #1
Format: Signed Hardback
My rating: 4 / 5

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A glorious epic fantasy in the grand tradition of C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman, and a major publishing event, The Mirror Chronicles will take you into another world, and on the adventure of your lifetime…

Half of your soul is missing. The lost part is in the mirror. And unless Sylas Tate can unite the two worlds, you will never be whole again.

Sylas Tate leads a lonely existence since his mother died. But then the tolling of a giant bell draws him into another world known as the Other, where he discovers not only that he has an inborn talent for magic, but also that his mother might just have come from this strange parallel place. Meanwhile, evil forces are stirring, and an astounding revelation awaits Sylas: that the Other is a mirror of our world, and every person here has their counterpart there, known as a Glimmer. As violence looms and the stakes get higher, Sylas must seek out his Glimmer, and unite the two halves of his soul – otherwise the entire universe may fall...

-- As seen on Goodreads

My Thoughts

I received this book as part of a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway, in exchange for an honest review.

When the sun sets, it merely sleeps, to rise another day;

a path that ends, ends not, but leads back from whence it came;

thus at this our journey’s end is another, just beginning.

-- The Bell Between Worlds, by Ian Johnstone

The Bell Between Worlds begins in our world, following a twelve year boy, Sylas Tate, who discovers a new shop called The Shop of Things when he is running errands for his brutish Uncle. There he meets Mr Zhi, who shows Sylas the unusual treasures the shop holds, entrusting the boy with a precious, bejewelled book called the Samarok, thus marking the beginning of Sylas’s tale. With the chime of the Passing Bell we are thrown into a parallel world, known as the Other, where magic abounds and untamed beasts still roam. He begins his quest in the hope of finding his mother, but as with all journeys, there are usually a few twists along the way…

This book reminds me of The Night Circus, certainly in comparison with the writing style, and the depth of detail present. Thankfully, here I think it’s a lot better. The characters are likeable and well thought out, and the depth of care put into world building is brilliant. Occasionally I do love a deeply descriptive book, and I definitely found it here. I cannot fault the writing style; it is so lyrical and beautiful to read. The detail in the imagery is so intricate you can’t help but be captured and wrapped up in the world.

I will say I fear that its greatest strength, could also pose to be its greatest weakness. So it is with a word of caution; I think you need to be in the right mood to tackle this book – certainly in the right frame of mind to expect detailed prose. While beautiful, I did find that after the half way mark, they began to bog the story down, hampering a quicker flow of the plot. The pacing of the book almost felt leashed at times, with the story needing to speed on ahead, but unable to with the dense images in the way. I feel at times that even if only half the detail was present, we would still be left with the same impressions, and a quicker, sharper story to boot.

I won’t go into any detail, but I loved the links between druidic history, Stonehenge and stone circles, and a little sprinkling of Ancient Egyptian themes (Thoth, Merimmat – Ma’at; the Temple of Isia [or Isis – the Egyptian goddess of magic, such a nice touch I though]) throughout. It gave a link between the book’s world and our history, anchoring it with our past. Also a yin and yang element, of everything being balanced, and parts of a whole… just… I loved the depth I could take away from the book. It was completely unexpected and enjoyable on many levels.

I find this a little hard to accurately translate into a star rating. I hover between like and really like, as there are many points in the book that fall into both categories, so 3.5 stars could be a more accurate representation of how I feel. Overall, I really enjoyed the book, and will look forward to continuing on with the story if/when the next is published.

Oh, on a side note, if the Groundrush was a theme park ride, I’d be first in the queue!


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