Archive for January, 2014

First of all, I’ve decided to extend my give-away for another week – if you’re interested in winning the first three books in Vampire Academy series from Audible check it out.  A reminder that you don’t need to have an Audible subscription or account to take advantage of this prize.   Good luck!

This last couple of weeks, I’ve done something I don’t do very often – marathoning an entire series of books.  In the last couple of weeks I have read the entire six books in the Vampire Academy series.  I just adored the world, the characters and the storylines.   You can follow my Vampire Academy reviews through the index.  I kept thinking ah well, the books aren’t that thick (ebooks can be deceiving in that way…) but then I realised that they were four or five hundred pages each!  Often I like to change things up a bit, so it says a lot for Mead’s writing and worldbuilding that she was able to retain my interest through six large books.

Recently I came across a fun exercise from Random House of Canada: Reading Bingo.  Please check it out on RHoC’s Facebook page or their site page.  I challenge you to play.  

For me, if we’re only including books read since January, I haven’t read much other than marathoning my way through Vampire Academy.
Let’s see.

First Line. More than 500 pages – Spirit Bound. Became a movie Vampire Academy.
Second line. Written by author under 30 – The Archived by Victoria Schwab. Non human characters. I guess vampires count? Blood Promise A female author. Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead. 
Third row. Non fiction. Mary Poppins, She Wrote
Fifth row Second book in a series Frostbite 

Added to my library this week

Surprise, surprise, I added the first in the Vampire Academy spinoff series Bloodlines to my library in both Kindle and Audible formats.  Yay for Whispersync for Voice. I don’t think I’ll get through this series as quickly as VA, mainly because there are just so many other books begging to be read.

This week was also release week for a couple of books about which I’m excited;

The Unbound by Victoria Schwab.  This is the sequel to Schwab’s The Archive which I really loved.  It was a fresh, compelling YA supernatural mystery and I look forward to seeing where she goes next.

Silence of the Library by Miranda James.  This is the latest in a series of gentle mysteries in which librarian Charlie and his Maine Coon cat become involved.  I love the characters and of course I am a cat and book lover so it hits all the right notes for me.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I will be able to get to these in the very near future – a pesky thing called work keeps getting in the way of my reading…

Upcoming releases for February

Cress by Marissa Meyer.  This is the third in Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series based on classic fairytales.  This one is based on Rapunzel.  I have Cress on preorder from Audible and Amazon and I can guarantee I’ll be starting it as soon as the downloads hit.

What are you planning to read this week?

Let me know in the comments.

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First of all in honour of the new site name, Scottish eReader, and also in honour of my current obsession with Vampire Academy, I have decided to host a giveaway of the first three books in Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series.  They are:

Vampire Academy Vampire Academy.  In which we first meet dhampir bodyguard-in-training Rose Hathaway and her best friend, good vampire Lissa Dragomir.  This is narrated by Stephanie Wolf.  Check out a sample.  

Vampire Academy Frostbite.  This is the second book in the series and Rose’s relationship with Dimitri deepens as does her and Lissa’s knowledge of spirit magic.  This is narrated by one of my favourite narrators, Khristine Hvam.  Check out a sample.  

Vampire Academy Shadow Kiss.  Things start to get more serious between Rose and Dimitri and St Vladimir’s faces an unexpected threat and tragedy is ahead.  This is also narrated by Khristine Hvam  Check out a sample.  

The prize will be gift codes to pick up the first three books from Audible.com.  In order to enter the giveaway, please check out the books on Audible.com, share the giveaway on your favourite social media sites and leave a comment below telling me why you would like to have these great books in audiobook format.  I will choose a winner at random on Friday 31st January 2014.  Good luck!

Added to my library this week

Blood Promise, Spirit Bound and Last Sacrifice AKA the last three of the Vampire Academy books.  I picked these up in Kindle and Audiobook formats.

I used another Audible credit to preorder Words of Radiance from Audible.  This is the second in Brandon Sanderson’s epic Stormlight Archive series.

From Netgalley I received an advance reader’s copy of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.  The description intrigued me:  In the spirit of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Gabrielle Zevin’s enchanting novel is a love letter to the world of books–and booksellers–that changes our lives by giving us the stories that open our hearts and enlighten our minds.  I will of course post a review once I’ve read it.

I was also asked by the author, Chinenye Onyeaso to review The Land of Honey.  The story is about a couple who immigrate from Africa to Canada (set in Edmonton) and the journey and challenges and joys as they work to make a home in Canada. It captures the reality of life for immigrants and provides a window on how they tackle life in a new country, will they hold together and stay, or cut and run? as well as how the different cultures affect the relationship dynamics,  and helps the wife Anuli her find her voice.  I’ve read a few pages and loved the writing style.  I look forward to reading the rest of it, and will of course give my review.

Have a good week, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway!

First of all in honour of the new site name, Scottish eReader, and also in honour of my current obsession with Vampire Academy, I have decided to host a giveaway of the first three books in Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series.  They are:

Vampire Academy Vampire Academy.  In which we first meet dhampir bodyguard-in-training Rose Hathaway and her best friend, good vampire Lissa Dragomir.  This is narrated by Stephanie Wolf. Go ahead and read my review of Vampire Academy.  Check out a sample.

Vampire Academy Frostbite.  This is the second book in the series and Rose’s relationship with Dimitri deepens as does her and Lissa’s knowledge of spirit magic.  This is narrated by one of my favourite narrators, Khristine Hvam.  Check out my thoughts on the book.  Check out a sample.

Vampire Academy Shadow Kiss.  Things start to get more serious between Rose and Dimitri and St Vladimir’s faces an unexpected threat and tragedy is ahead.  This is also narrated by Khristine Hvam.  Review coming soon.  Check out a sample.

The prize will be gift codes to pick up the first three books from Audible.com.  In order to enter the giveaway, please check out the books on Audible.com, OR share the giveaway on your favourite social media sites OR leave a comment below telling me why you would like to have these great books in audiobook format.  I will choose a winner at random on Friday 31st January 2014.  The prize will be Audible gift codes for the first three books in the series.  Note that you don’t need to subscribe to Audible to accept this prize.  As long as you have an Amazon account, you’re good to go. Good luck!

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Added to my library this week

Blood Promise, Spirit Bound and Last Sacrifice AKA the last three of the Vampire Academy books.  I picked these up in Kindle and Audiobook formats.

I used another Audible credit to preorder Words of Radiance from Audible.  This is the second in Brandon Sanderson’s epic Stormlight Archive series.

From Netgalley I received an advance reader’s copy of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.  The description intrigued me:  In the spirit of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Gabrielle Zevin’s enchanting novel is a love letter to the world of books–and booksellers–that changes our lives by giving us the stories that open our hearts and enlighten our minds.  I will of course post a review once I’ve read it.

I was also asked by the author, Chinenye Onyeaso to review The Land of Honey.  The story is about a couple who immigrate from Africa to Canada (set in Edmonton) and the journey and challenges and joys as they work to make a home in Canada. It captures the reality of life for immigrants and provides a window on how they tackle life in a new country, will they hold together and stay, or cut and run? as well as how the different cultures affect the relationship dynamics,  and helps the wife Anuli her find her voice.  I’ve read a few pages and loved the writing style.  I look forward to reading the rest of it, and will of course give my review.

Have a good week, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway!

Frostbite by Richelle Mead is the second in the Vampire Academy series of books and continues the story of Rose and Lissa.  We learn more about their bond and about the spirit magic that Lissa wields.  We also get to meet Rose’s mother, legendary dhampir guardian Janine Hathaway and we see the less than warm relationship the two share.  The attitude of Moroi towards their dhampir protectors and their lack of responsibility for their own safety is started to be explored through the character of Tasha Ozera.

What I liked

Character and relationship development.  I liked how the bond between Rose and Lissa continued to be explored. it was interesting that Mead presented the developments in such a way that Rose’s absorbing Lissa’s spirit darkness was obvious to the reader long before the characters themselves worked it out.  That is a technique used rather a lot by Mead.  Another example would be Adrian’s use of alcohol and drugs to counter spirit magic’s unwelcome side effects.  For me that worked well, although some readers may be rather irritated by the characters’ blindness to these developments.

I also liked Rose’s realisation that killing Strigoi is not as glorious as it sounds in direct contrast to Mason’s attitude.  She also has to learn that there are real consequences to her actions which are all part of growing up.  While the development in Lissa’s character isn’t as noticeable, she too has to step up to the role her position in Moroi society demands.

The developments in Rose’s relationship with Dimitri are well done, too.  It’s not yet at the stage where I can believe it’s more than a teen crush on an older guy, it’s becoming clear that Dimitri is beginning to respect her growing maturity.

What I didn’t like

I didn’t mention it in my review of Vampire Academy, but I’ve seen the trailer for the upcoming movie and, while it’s difficult to judge on a two minute trailer, it really doesn’t seem to do justice to Mead’s wonderful world.  It seems to focus on the cheesier aspects of  the vampires without the depth of characters in the book.  I also felt the actress playing Lissa was having trouble with her fangs which was very distracting.  I’m not certain if I’ll go and see it – I don’t want to be disappointed the way I was in the awful Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief movie.  Are you looking forward to the movie?  Let me know in the comments.

All in all, I gave Frostbite five stars out of five.

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In Mead’s world there are two kinds of vampires – the “good” mortal vampires known as Moroi and the evil undead bloodsucking amoral Strigoi.  Vampire Academy tells the story of Vasilisa Dragomir, a Moroi princess, and her half vampire half human guardian Rose Hathaway and the bond they share.  This is actually the second time I have read Vampire Academy.  The first time I read it was a few years ago, I remember thinking it was a fun read and that I would perhaps get round to reading the rest of the series some day.  The second time I read it though, maybe in contrast to some of the books I’ve read recently, the characters just leapt off the page at me.  I became so hooked on the series that I have been marathoning it.  I’m currently on book four of six, with spinoff series Bloodlines in prospect.  Expect more Vampire Academy reviews to follow.

What I liked

Three dimensional characters.  I loved how Mead wrote both Lissa and Rose.  I felt it was a very realistic depiction of young women on the cusp of adulthood, learning to deal with issues of love and life.  Setting aside all the vampire issues, this series is grounded in the more global issues facing young people learning to deal with the adult world and adult relationships and moving away their families of origin emotionally.  In a recent interview with Mead I learned that she was a teacher in a former life.  I found myself nodding at that thinking that, yep, she really gets young people.

The worldbuilding.  I understand Mead based her world on some old European legends of different types of vampires.  I found the world she created fascinating and loved learning about it.  It was nicely done that Lissa and Rose’s bond and Lissa’s magic is unusual in world so the reader is learning about it at the same time as them – often faster.  I liked that the magic had real and lasting consequences and that they had to learn how to deal with those.

What I didn’t like

Dhampir career choices.  It may seem strange but the one thing that had me ready to throw my eReader out the window was was the limited choice of career options for half human/half vampires like Rose.  It’s made clear several times that the only choices a female dhampir has is a) to be a bodyguard for Moroi, b) to raise lots of dhampir kids as a single mum or c) to become a junkie prostitute.  It was also rather disturbing just how subservient dhampir act around Moroi “they come first.”  And very few dhampirs seem to question this?!?  I mean, really, come on!  Mead has said she based the world on early eighteenth century European legends.  Those career options would make perfect sense in that time period. Of course, that is partly the point that Mead is trying to get across that dhampir/Moroi society hasn’t really evolved all that much since they originally came over from Europe.  Presumably Lissa and Rose will be catalysts for change later in the series.

Of course the fact that I became so angry at the lack of career paths for, let me remind you, FICTIONAL characters, shows just how well Mead has done her job.  If I weren’t so invested in the characters and the story I wouldn’t care.

Given the fact that I’m now marathoning the rest of the series it can hardly come as a surprise that I loved Vampire Academy and gave it five stars out of five.

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This week I have been reading not for fun.  My husband and I were recently given the date for our Canadian citizenship exam, so I have been working my way through  Discover Canada – The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship.  This is required reading for the exam, and the Government of Canada very helpfully offers it in hard copy, electronic format and as an audiobook. My husband, being a traditionalist, is working from our hard copy while I am following along on my Kindle Fire.

I’ll be perfectly honest.  It’s been a while since I’ve had to study for an exam – probably at least 20 years or so now – and it’s hard.  While it’s interesting reading about my adopted homeland, it’s tough wondering what we will be asked and what I’ll need to remember.  It’s also been a while since I’ve had to actually retain information.  In the jobs I’ve had we’ve not been expected to know everything, but to be able to access resources to do our jobs.

Any tips from those who’ve been through the process would be most welcome.  I took at look at the UK citizenship test – I would have failed that one!

This week I discovered the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead.  It was actually the second time I read the first book in the series, but perhaps it was the contrast with some of the other books I’ve read recently, but this time the characters just leapt off the page at me.  I ended up purchasing the whole series and am now on book three! I will be writing full reviews of the books, so I won’t say any more just now.

Added to my library this week

Vampire Academy.  First book in the series.  Originally borrowed from the library, I ended up buying it from Amazon as I knew I was going to love the series.

Vampire Academy Frostbite.  I picked this up from Amazon and as the Audible Whispersync match was only $3.99 I added it too.  It’s narrated by Khristine Hvam whose work on Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series.

Vampire Academy Shadow Kiss.  This is the third book in the series.  I picked this up from Amazon and again from Audible.  Once again the Whispersync for Voice match was only $3.99 and Shadow Kiss is narrated by Khrisine Hvam.

Vampire Academy Blood Promise.  You guessed it, book four of the series.  I picked this one up from Amazon.  The Whispersync for Voice cost jumped to $9.99 for this book and also the narrator changes.  Narration duties fall to Emily Schaffer for the rest of the series.  It really bugs me when they do that, especially as I enjoy Khristine’s work so much.  For these two reasons I’ve not yet purchased it on audiobook, nor the final two books in the series.

Vampire Academy Spirit Bound.  Book five of the series which I picked up from Amazon.

Vampire Academy Last Sacrifice.  The final book.  Picked up from Amazon

Cold Fire.  This is the second book in Kate Elliott’s Spirit Walker series.  I have this already on Kindle, but as I enjoyed Charlotte Parry’s narration so much that I’d held off until it was released as an audiobook.  It was finally released earlier this month, so I have picked it up from Audible.

Have a good week folks!

Pivot Point by Kasie West is a young adult novel about Addie, a young woman who has the ability to preview the consequences of any decision she makes and see both sides of the coin so to speak.  She makes use of this ability when her parents separate in order to help her decide which parent she will live with.  Think Sliding Doors with super powered teens.

What I liked

Excellent execution of concept.  While the concept itself isn’t new, I thought West put together a slick, tight execution.  The internal logic held up exceptionally well.  I liked that she explained not only the concept but gave it clear limitations:  Addie can only view her own timelines, they must diverge from a decision she makes and she cannot view subsequent forks from within a viewing.  I’m not explaining that very well.  Why not go check the book out for yourself and it will make sense?  I liked also that her skill was connected to that of her best friend, who can erase memories, preventing Addie’s being overloaded with false memories.

No decision was without consequences.  I liked that there was no “good” decisions.  True to life, sometimes no matter what you decide somebody is going to get hurt.

Slick pacing.  The book is written with alternating chapters following the two timelines, the one in which Addie moves away with her father and the second where she stays with her mother.  This kept the story moving along at a brisk pace.  Some events, such as the big match, occur in both timelines with Addie’s having differing perspectives on them.

Tightly woven plots.  The minor plot threads are expertly woven into the main narrative, with both the thread of the missing young women and the attacks on the athletes appearing in both.

What I didn’t like

Bland characters.  Other than her ability, I found Addie and the other characters very bland and lacking in depth.  I read the book perhaps a month ago and I had to go back in to look up the main character’s name.

All in all I did enjoy Pivot Point and while I won’t rush out to buy the sequel, Split Second, due out later this month, I will probably check it out at some point.  I gave Pivot Point three stars out of five.

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Independent Study is the followup to Charbonneau’s The Testing in which young protagonist Cia Vale survived the gruelling life or death competition to secure a place at her society’s university.  The society in which Cia lives is struggling to emerge after many years of devastation, both natural and man made and the graduates of the university are expected to provide leadership to their communities.  When we left Cia at the end of The Testing she was just beginning to understand what had happened during The Testing and the depth of her society’s betrayal of its young people.  She must decide what to do with that information and whom to trust.

I will start by saying that while Independence Day is a good book, I did not enjoy it as much as The Testing.  Perhaps that’s not too surprising – the second book in a trilogy (Graduation Day, the third and final book in the series is due out later this summer) is often the most challenging for a writer in terms of keeping narrative tension and the plot moving.

What I liked

The characters.  I continued to be engaged by Cia and her story.  I find her a smart, level headed heroine and I liked that she considered any issue deeply before acting.  I do wonder though if this considered analysis before acting may be a major flaw for her in book three.  I also appreciated the fact that any love interest didn’t turn her brains to mush as is too often the case with YA heroines.

The setting and concept.  Generally speaking I liked the dystopian/Hunger Games setting of this series.  I liked the moral dilemma in which it places Cia in this book.  I did have an issue with the government’s so casually condemning many of its top young people to death and wasting their talents at a time when the society is struggling to survive.  I still didn’t feel that was adequately explained in either of the books.

Interactions between the students.  I enjoyed the developments of the relationships between the students.  I liked the introduction of the Tosu City students to the mix – I felt that added an interesting dynamic to the story.

What I didn’t like

Lack of focus.  My biggest issue with Independent Study was the lack of focus.  I found it often unclear what Cia was trying to achieve in this book.  Was her goal simply to survive the induction (a sort of mini-Testing)?  Was it to aid the rebels by finding proof of the reality of the Testing?  Was it to obtain a good internship so that she could work against the Testing from the inside?  Personally, I feel it would have had a stronger narrative if some of these subplots had been removed.

All in all though I did enjoy Independent Study and will certainly check out Graduation Day when it’s released this summer.  I look forward to reading how Cia’s story continues.

I gave Independent Study three and a half stars out of five.

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