Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling

The Casual VacancyThe Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling
Grade: Adult
Rating: 5/5 stars

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils...Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults (Description from Goodreads)

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I don’t know if I was more excited or nervous about reading ‘The Casual Vacancy’ on release. We all know J.K. Rowling is a talented author, so I wasn’t worried that the book would be badly written; but I couldn’t help wondering what if I’d got my hopes up a bit too much and I was expecting more than I’d get. My fears were misplaced. How could I have doubted that the story Ms. Rowling had given us wouldn’t captivate me in every way? ‘The Casual Vacancy’ is a powerfully written account of small-town political and social life, where the reader gets lost in the broken and defeated lives of the Pagford townsfolk. I loved it.

To the outside eye, Pagford doesn’t look like much. A small town, where everyone knows their neighbours and where gossip spreads like wildfire. But this little English town holds the potential for disaster. When well loved member of the community, Barry Fairbrother, dies the town goes into a bit of a meltdown. Barry Fairbrother had an impact on every bit of town life while he was alive; and also in his death. Pagford is left with the painful task of finding a Barry-Replacement for his seat on the town council. But with the town divided by their views of district lines, drug help centres and just who has the right to run for council; Barry is a hard act to follow.

We are given a well-rounded view of everything that goes on within Pagford. Every family has a secret, troubled existence. No-one in the community escapes from the brutal lives they’ve been placed in and we see these lives in great detail throughout the whole book. Unemployed drug addicts struggling to keep control of their children; the well-off store owners who think they’re better than the rest of the town, but aren’t hiding their snobbery very well; mothers who uproot their London lives to follow their ‘heart’ to ‘heartbreak’; children who fear when the next punch will come from Daddy. Every little life is ruled by potential destruction and yet you can’t look away. Like a train wreck I kept watching...reading; wanting to know what disaster might pop up next. The problems escalate thanks to the search for Barry's replacement. The drama, hatred and constant fighting for this vacant position left me gobsmacked and slightly fearful of small-town life. Politics, they can drive any family mental.

The book was darker than I was expecting, and I’d already read warnings that it was a very adult book. It’s not so much that the book was descriptive – although it did scrape away the layers of everyday life without guarding you from truth – but I just wasn’t expecting every character to be so broken and destructive. I kept thinking there had to be someone in the town that had redeeming qualities, but they were all a bit beaten before the book even started. I think the least broken character was Kay Bawden (she also happened to be my favourite Pagfordian) But even Kay had her issues and they weren’t all light and fluffy. The book should definitely come with a warning: Be careful of the dark life displayed within.

I really enjoyed the way the book was written. Despite having an opening section that was a little hard to follow. We’re thrown into the story and are greeted with over 20 characters that we will get the chance to follow and explore for the rest of the book. The problem was trying to remember which characters belonged to each family and what side of the council they were on. With only 50 pages in the opening section, it was a bit tricky keeping track of everyone. But you catch on after a while and you get used to the way all the characters interact with each other. It was the fact that we have so many characters that made the story a lot more interesting. I loved the switching perspectives. J.K. Rowling certainly has a way with words. I really enjoyed the way she wouldn’t just focus on one person within the one scene. If there were multiple main characters in the same scene (and there often were) you were constantly switching your focus from character to character – sometimes even mid-sentence. There was no clue who you were going to get next, but it definitely keeps you on your toes. It also helped with that well-rounded feeling, because you were able to see the different emotions and opinions from totally different characters that were in the same situations.

The harsh realities of the characters continue from start to finish. You couldn't escape being affected by the stories within. ‘The Casual Vacancy’ is a dark and twisted story that displays so much emotion and drama. I loved every moment. J.K. Rowling is a master of words and worlds.

5/5 stars

(Originally posted on Goodreads)

Friday, 28 September 2012

Demons of the Sun - Cindi Madsen

Demons of the SunDemons of the Sun - Cindi Madsen
Grade: YA
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Persephone didn’t ask to be the guardian of Hades Dagger, an artifact Hades forged to turn demons into daywalkers. She didn’t ask for the demon blood running through her veins that allows her to touch the thing, either.And she definitely didn’t ask for Jax, a cocky Warrior, to barge into her life and proclaim himself her bodyguard now that Hades wants his dagger back.

Forced to deal with this reality, along with an increase in demon attacks, and the fact members of the Order of Zeus keep turning up dead, Persephone finds her hands full.

When demons tell Persephone that she’s one of them she’s appalled... And a little intoxicated by the power she feels when they call her their queen. Telling Jax about her demon side might turn him away from her forever...

Something bad is brewing, and if Persephone doesn’t figure out a solution, and soon she’ll be responsible for unleashing Hell on Earth. (Description from Goodreads)

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I’d been looking forward to reading ‘Demons of the Sun’ for so long. Unlike the rest of the YA world, I haven’t jumped on too many Greek Myth stories, so I went into it with a mostly clear head; but I was really interested to see what Cindi Madsen came up with. I was not disappointed.

Persephone is the last remaining Sentry; guardian of the Hades Dagger, a dagger that would cause the world to be overrun by demons if it got into the wrong hands. The problem is, the dagger calls to her – tempting her with its power and history. If she’s not careful, it could consume her. Persephone is a tough chick. Strong willed, skilled with a weapon or two, and independent in her thinking and actions. She’s one you just can’t help loving. I adored the opening scenes of ‘Demons of the Sun’ because we got to see Persephone in action straight away. A break-in at your house, late at night? No problem, the many weapons hidden in the rooms and the handy flipping coffee table make for good objects for defence! Persephone keeps this up throughout the whole book. She’s an action girl – despite the need to sometimes fall back and stay protected.

‘Demons of the Sun’ has a heavy focus on mythology and the paranormal, especially when it comes to Persephone’s task in life, protecting the Hades Dagger. As the name suggests, the dagger belongs to Hades himself; ruler of the underworld and master of the demons (creatures of the underworld that come out at night) If Hades has control of the dagger, demons will be able to walk the human world in the daytime. The destruction that would come from this would be impossible to stop. When this information popped up, I couldn’t help thinking of the Persephone myth and wondering whether Cindi would draw on it completely or deviate into her own world more. The connection between Persephone and Hades is well known and I was interested to see if it would be a major part of this story too. I loved the inclusion of Myths and Gods. Even though she grew up and lives in the United States, Persephone defaults to the Greek Gods and myths when praying for miracles. The legends and beliefs have been taught to her so strongly, that nothing – not time or space – pulls her apart from the world she’s been brought up in.

The romance in this story almost killed me. Hard to avoid the heart wrenching when you've got such an intense love triangle. Persephone is torn between the man of her dreams – literally – and the strong, handsome Warrior who is trying to protect her. Adrastos has always been on Persephone’s mind, and she lives for the moments he turns up in her dreams and professes his love for her. But then there’s Jax, who rarely sees the kind side of Persephone because she’s determined to do everything her way or no way at all; Persephone struggles to decider what she feels for him. I fell for Jax instantly, and not just because I’d heard amazing things about him. The fact that he was someone solid and caring, who didn’t just promise to be there for Persephone but was there for her, made my heart melt. He was cheeky, dangerous and there was a moment where I was so close to tears I didn’t think I could love him, and his relationship with Persephone, any more than I already did. Adrastos’s influence does make the battle for Persephone’s heart interesting though.

The ending wraps everything up perfectly, but leaves you with enough questions and possibilities that it’s open for more adventures in the future. The danger Persephone and Jax face is more than they’ve come across before and there were times when I thought it might be too much for Persephone to handle – but she’s stronger than she looks.

I really enjoyed 'Demons of the Sun' and I hope for more books from this world in the future, because I’m certain there are more exciting stories to be told.

4.5/5 stars

(Originally posted on Goodreads)

Saturday, 22 September 2012

The Raven Boys - Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle, #1)
The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle #1)
                                                 - Maggie Stiefvater
Grade: YA
Rating: 5/5 stars

Blue has spent the majority of her sixteen years being told that if she kisses her true love, he will die. When Blue meets Gansey’s spirit on the corpse road she knows there is only one reason why – either he is her true love or she has killed him.

Determined to find out the truth, Blue becomes involved with the Raven Boys, four boys from the local private school (lead by Gansey) who are on a quest to discover Glendower – a lost ancient Welsh King who is buried somewhere along the Virginia ley line. Whoever finds him will be granted a supernatural favour.

Never before has Blue felt such magic around her. But is Gansey her true love? She can’t imagine a time she would feel like that, and she is adamant not to be the reason for his death. Where will fate lead them?(Description from Goodreads)

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After months of building anticipation for ‘The Raven Boys’ I finally got the chance to read it. Dark mysteries, dangerous prophecies and a quest to uncover a power greater than anyone could imagine; ‘The Raven Boys’ captured my attention right from the start and I loved every moment of it.

Blue Sargent has lived in Henrietta with her psychic mother, and various psychic aunts, her whole life. She’s never questioned the future, having always had others to tell her what might be coming – including her own future: If Blue kisses her true love, he will die. Now her prophecy seems to be putting itself in motion and Blue is trying her hardest to make sure it won’t come true. I’ve always been a sucker for prophecies; they make things more interesting. The part that made Blue’s future prediction so much fun was discovering it so early in the novel and watching it start to unfold. There was a sense of mystery and adventure. You knew of a potential outcome for Blue and her true love, but there was no telling when or if it was actually going to come to pass. Despite the mentions of true love, and having Blue hang around a bunch of wealthy, nice-looking guys; ‘The Raven Boys’ isn’t a romance story; but the mystery of her ‘true love’ definitely gets the heart fluttering every now and then.

This wasn’t the only mystery in the book, there’s also one that involves The Raven Boys – a private boys school situated in the town of Henrietta. It’s not so much the school that is involved in a mystery, but four Raven Boys that are tied up in a whole heap of danger and excitement. There was something so captivating about Gansey and his gang (Adam, Ronan and Noah) – you couldn’t help wanting to know everything about them. Each boy seemed to have a troubled past; with Gansey being the exception, but he helped hold the group together. I always find troubled boys to be very interesting, I want to know what makes them tick and uncover their secret pasts. What made their side of the story so addictive was their passion to discover the mystery of the ley lines (powerful energy lines that can be found all over the world) – especially the line that could be found near Henrietta, as it was meant to hold Glendower, a famous Welsh noble. It was said if you could wake him from the ley line he’d grant you a favour. One of my favourite parts of the book was all the talk of ley lines, psychics and the potential for magic. While they rarely mention it as ‘magic’, the spirits, psychics and search for energy lines that’ll bring centuries old people to life again screams of semi-magic to me and I love it. I can’t pass up a good magic book!

The book spends a lot of time asking and answering questions. You can’t attempt to solve and uncover mysteries if you’re not going to ask questions along the way. Blue and the Raven Boys quartet definitely make you question everything as they search for the centre of Glendower’s ley line. I really liked this constant questioning; it pulled you into the story and you couldn’t let go – not without all the answers you were looking for. Unfortunately, the answers weren’t so easy to find and you were often left with more questions than before; especially towards the end of the novel. I thought the ending was a little rushed. You were sort of thrown into all this craziness which left you with a pile of previously unanswered questions and a heap of new ones. But it worked to cement my love for the story. The ending made me desperate for more. I don’t know how I’ll stay sane waiting for the sequel.

An incredible start to a mysterious series. I predict the next book will be just as fantastic!

5/5 stars

(Originally Posted on Goodreads)

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Timepiece - Myra McEntire

Timepiece (Hourglass, #2)Timepiece (Hourglass #2) - Myra McEntire
Grade: YA
Rating: 5/5 stars

A threat from the past could destroy the future. And the clock is ticking...

Kaleb Ballard's relentless flirting is interrupted when Jack Landers, the man who tried to murder his father, timeslips in and attacks before disappearing just as quickly. But Kaleb has never before been able to see time travelers, unlike many of his friends associated with the mysterious Hourglass organization. Are Kaleb's powers expanding, or is something very wrong?

Then the Hourglass is issued an ultimatum. Either they find Jack and the research he's stolen on the time gene, or time will be altered with devastating results.

Now Kaleb, Emerson, Michael, and the other Hourglass recruits have no choice but to use their unusual powers to find Jack. But where do they even start? And when? And even if they succeed, it may not be enough...

The follow-up to Hourglass, Timepiece blends the paranormal, science fiction, mystery, and suspense genres into a nonstop thrill ride where every second counts. (Description from Goodreads) 

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After the amazing 'Hourglass' I was desperate to find out what happens next to the time-gene crew, especially when I heard 'Timepiece' focused heavily on troubled bad-boy, Kaleb. This would be one of those moments when reading the blurb of the book might have come in handy, because it's not just that the story involves Kaleb more than the previous book. 'Timepiece' IS Kaleb's book.

Told in first-person, Kaleb's narration picks up shortly after 'Hourglass' ends and details his struggle to accept his mother's failing health and the issues he has to face now that the travel rules have been broken to restore his family. If you thought he had a hard time dealing with family issues before, it's nothing compared to what he and the other Hourglass students face now. I really enjoyed Kaleb's voice and the switch in perspective. While I missed Emerson's story a bit, it was cool to see the world through new eyes - and from someone who has a different power and who has known about the crazy time-related world his whole life - even if he wasn't always kept in the loop.

We're introduced to two enemies early on in the book - one we've come across before, Jack Landers, who is on the loose and must be found before he ruins more timelines and causes serious damage to the present timeshift. And a new enemy, The Powers That Be, a mysterious 'governing' body who threaten to reverse the new timeline created at the end of 'Hourglass' unless the Hourglass can find a way to fix the consequences of changing the past - which includes stopping Jack from finding a hidden time device that could change the world. I was worried about their task; it seemed almost impossible to tell a bunch of teenagers to fix the world or else! But at the same time I love the danger and adventure that came with this storyline. 'Timepiece' was darker because of the constant threat of failure. I'll admit that I was sometimes shocked at how they solved problems, it seemed too easy. In a book where new trouble popped up at every corner - the solutions came out of no-where; but they usually brought more trouble, so it kept the excitement going.

I think my biggest issue with the book came from the romance. Because Kaleb showed a fair bit of interested in Emerson during the previous book, I had latched onto those emotions and part of me was really hoping they could have a chance together - despite knowing Michael and Emerson have a crazy, electric connection. In an attempt to move on from his Emerson obsession, Kaleb throws himself at the first girl he sees, who happens to be Emerson's best friend, Lily; she's also not interested in him, which makes Kaleb try harder to get her attention. I wasn't so quick to let go of my Emerson hopes and I was convinced Lily was horrible for Kaleb. But Lily's presence proved to be the best thing for Kaleb; her emotions were hard to ignore and the fact that she didn't throw herself at him meant there was more learning about each other and less insta-love. It was exactly the stort of tension filled romance-drama that I want to see in YA books more often. It wiped out the possibility of love triangles and worked around non-relationship issues to bring them together.

Desperate to find out what happens next. The wait is going to be so hard.

5/5 stars

(Originally posted on Goodreads)

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Showcase Sunday #5

Showcase Sunday is a weekly meme hosted by Vicky at Books, Biscuits & Tea where bloggers show off what goodies they received throughout the week.

I haven't done one of these in a while, mostly because I've been waiting for a few new books to trickle in. You can't show off your goodies if you've got nothing to show. The month has been full of super cool books and I'm excited to share them with everyone. 

Foretold - Jana Oliver 

The final book in the Demon Trappers series. I felt like I had been waiting so long for this book to arrive and it finally did. Reading the conclusion to Riley and Beck's story was perfect. I hope to have a review up soon. 

Gunmetal Magic - Ilona Andrews

I haven't gushed enough about this series on the blog, but Ilona Andrews' 'Kate Daniels' series is one of my favourite Urban Fantasy stories ever. Gunmetal Magic is a spin-off book in the series and is a fantastic book. I wish there had been more to the story. 

Biting Cold - Chloe Neill 

If I have to pick a favourite supernatural genre, it's nearly always going to be vampires. I always get a little excited when I read another vampire story. They make me happy. Biting Cold is the 6th book in the Chicagoland Vampires series and it definitely made me happy. 

Pushing the Limits - Katie McGarry

I think I've found another YA Contemporary author that I will forever adore. Pushing the Limits is an amazing and emotional story. Everyone must read it!

Throne of Glass - Sarah J. Maas

The first book in a  new YA fantasy series. I think I've read more fantasy books this year than I have in a quite a while. It's an interesting start to the series.

Losing Lila - Sarah Alderson

I've been waiting to get my hands on Losing Lila since I finished reading Hunting Lila. This one is full of action and danger and lots of shirtless Alex. It's worth reading. 

Foretold (14 tales of prophecy) - ed. Carrie Ryan

I bought this book mainly for the Richelle Mead story. Who wouldn't want to read about Rose and Dimitri again? I know there are some fantastic authors included in the anthology and I look forward to reading the rest of their stories soon.

Thin Air - Rachel Caine

Last week I started Rachel's 'Weather Warden' series and I'm hooked. Dying for the next books, I ordered books 3-5 online and thought that'd be enough for a while, but a visit to Basement Books meant finding book #6 - so I can't wait for the others to arrive. I've got a lot of Weather Warden awesomeness to keep me occupied now.

Red-Headed Stepchild - Jaye Wells

I have decided I should probably avoid Big W's bargain box. It's usually full of random paranormal or just everyday romance novels, but I have been on the lookout for more Rachel Caine books and in the past I've found them in this box. Well, this week, my local Big W updated their box and I found the first book in Jaye Wells' 'Sabina Kane' series. It sounded like a cool book and for $3.47...I couldn't resist.

And that's it for me this week. Hope everyone's had a good book week! 


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

A Witch in Love - Ruth Warburton

A Witch in Love (Winter Trilogy, #2)A Witch in Love (Winter Trilogy #2) 
                                           - Ruth Warburton
Grade: YA
Rating: 4/5 stars

Anna still finds it hard to believe that Seth loves her and has vowed to suppress her powers, no matter what.

But magic – like love – is uncontrollable. It spills out with terrible consequences, and soon, Anna is being hunted. (Description from Goodreads) 

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I've been reading a lot of witch books this year, so I was pretty excited to pick up 'A Witch in Love' - sequel to the magically awesome 'A Witch in Winter'. I think my expectations were a little high this time around, and there were parts that didn't quite meet up with them, but I really enjoyed the story and it left me with a lot to think about for the final book.

Anna Winterson is a witch. When she moved to the town of Winter the previous year she discovered hidden powers that have been plaguing her ever since; mostly because of her relationship with the incredibly gorgeous human - also known as an 'outwith' - Seth Waters. 'A Witch in Love' throws us straight back into their relationship dramas and spends a fair bit of the book focusing on it too. Anna and Seth have had a rocky courtship because of Anna's powers. After an accidental love spell brought the two of them together, Anna struggles to trust Seth's feelings for and it brings a fair bit of trouble to the table. I was never all that invested in their relationship. Seth just doesn’t do it for me. I think it’s cute how they seemed to want to love each other so much, but I also had trouble with the amount of time that was spent on the two of them, because I just can’t see the connection. However, the growing attention from Abe definitely caught my eye. He makes me smile more than Seth does – even though I’m almost certain nothing will come of it.

What I love about this book is that you’re never sure who the evil people are going to be. In the first book, we were introduced to the Ealdwitan (the magical governing body) – this time they don’t feature as much. I was concerned that we’d had this big build up for the enemy and then it was falling away to nothing. But no, they were just being replaced by a more troubling enemy. The Malleus Maleficorum, a human vigilante group responsible for the witch hunts of the past. And I thought magic would be the biggest problem for the series. It’s interesting to see the extreme opposite of what we saw in ‘A Witch in Winter’, the horrors of the non-magical society taking matters into their own hands. It makes me curious to see what will happen in the next book, because I feel like we haven’t seen the end of the Ealdwitan and the Malleus Maleficorum.

I was really looking forward to seeing more magic in this book. Despite the drama from the last book, and Anna’s promise to never use her powers around outwith again, I figured she’d be doing magic still – after all, she is a witch. But this book lacked planned magic. Almost everything was accidental. Anna tries so hard to hold her magic in that it pours out of her in unexpected times and causes considerable damage. Because of Anna’s unwillingness to learn how to control her magic, there wasn’t much of it explored in this book. It made me a little sad to have a powerful witch on the pages and only see her cause accidental drama. However, that changes towards the end of the book and I’ve got hope that the next story will bring a lot more magic.

‘A Witch in Love’ is very much a book of discovery for Anna. Discovering the truth about her relationship, discovering that she can’t repress her magic without consequences and most importantly discovering family. Anna’s mum has been missing for her whole life, and Anna’s knowledge of her is very limited. Well, she finally gets the chance to understand her mother a bit better. I liked this part of the book; it gave the story a purpose. There was something to grab hold of – something to find, hunt and explore. I really enjoyed digging into Anna’s past.

‘A Witch in Love’ was a fun continuation of the Winter Trilogy. I’m looking forward to seeing where Anna’s life leads to next.

4/5 stars

(Originally Posted on Goodreads)