Archive for May, 2014

Midnight Crossroad is the first in a new supernatural mystery series from Sookie Stackhouse writer Charlaine Harris.  it has a very similar feel to Sookie and if you enjoyed that series you will likely get a lot of pleasure from Midnight Crossroad, too.  This new series is set in Texas rather than Louisiana, but keeps that small-town feel.  It centres on the inhabitants of a small town, Midnight, and the secrets they hide.  
 
I’m not certain if this is intended to be set in the same world as Sookie.  It’s perhaps a little early to tell – it could go either way.  There is nothing to say one way or the other.  In any case, it is very enjoyable.
 
What I liked

Ensemble cast.  Unlike The Southern Vampire Mystery series, which concentrates mainly on Sookie, and is told from her point of view, Midnight Crossroad has multiple points of view from interesting characters.  I enjoyed hearing from all of them, and it was interesting hearing the story from different sides.  Each of the characters had his or her own secret and reason for moving to this small town.  Sometimes I did struggle to remember which characters know what secrets.
 
Mr Snuggly the cat.  Adorable!  I loved his point of view.  Let’s just say, he’s not Tara the Hero cat. It gives a good measure of the kind of town Midnight is, that upon learning that Fiji’s cat can talk, after a few seconds of surprise, the inhabitants merely shrug their shoulders and put it down to just one more strange thing in the town.  More, please.
 
The mystery.  While I wouldn’t say the mystery was gripping, I did very much enjoy the way that the focus was put on the effect it had on the inhabitants of Midnight.  The story was quite slow to start, but Harris uses this time well to introduce her characters and the town.  
 
Community feel.  I liked the way the characters came together, supported each other and generally had each others’ backs.  We are introduced to the people of Midnight through new resident Manfred and he, too, quickly becomes part of the community.
 
What I didn’t like

There was nothing I didn’t enjoy about the book.  Perhaps the mystery could have been a little more complex, but in a way this allowed the focus to be on getting to know the residents of Midnight.  
 
I gave Midnight Crossroad a solid four stars out of five and will certainly be following the rest of the series.
 

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    Ironskin by Tina Connelly is a retelling of Jane Eyre with a fantasy twist.  Unlike similar classic/fantasy blends such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Jane Slayre, Ironskin avoids the humorous side of such a juxtaposition and plays it relatively straight.  It tells the story of Jane Eliot, a young woman who must wear an iron mask to contain the effects of a injury sustained in the war against the fae.  Although the war is long over, she is still very much an outcast and takes employment with one Mr. Rochart looking after his young daughter, Dorie.  Dorie, it seems, has also been affected by the fae.

    What I liked

    The adaptation.  This version, while not following the exact plotline of Jane Eyre, does an excellent job of maintaining the characterisations and emotional beats of the original story.  Like Jane Eyre, our Jane Eliot lives at the fringes of her society, and this has a large influence on her character.  Edward too, is very similar to the Edward Rochester of the book – his guilt for his past is a block in his admitting his feelings for Jane.  Ironskin focusses mainly on the Jane/Edward relationship and hits most of the same emotional beats as the original with the love, betrayal and reunion.  I didn’t feel Ironskin came quite up to the emotion of the Jane Eyre ending where Jane is finally reunited with Rochester.  The fae side of the story was nicely woven in along with this key relationship.

    Beauty as a theme.  This is an interesting theme woven throughout the novel.  Jane, physically scarred as she is by the Great War, is very sensitive to this, especially as she sees the “pretty ladies” who congregate around Edward.  She must decide how best to compete for the love of the man she adores.  The whole fey beauty becomes a major plot point.

    Supporting characters.  Although it focusses on Jane and Edward, I did enjoy the supporting characters in the book, especially Poole (half dwarven!) and Dorie.  I liked how Jane’s relationships with them are developed through the book.

    The narration.  I was drawn to Ironskin as much by the plot as the audio narration sample.  When deciding whether to buy the Audible book or the Kindle ebook I often listen to the sample.  I loved Rosalyn Landor’s voice and narration in the sample and she did not disappoint in the least.  I loved the entire narration.  Maybe it’s because I am British (soon to be Canadian!), I generally warm to British narrators more than American ones.  Landor narrates this with a wonderfully rich received pronunciation accent and brings a lot of life to the tale.

    Check out the sample here.

    The pacing.  With the focus on Jane’s time at the manor, the story moves along briskly.  Like in the original, there are several hints at Rochart’s secret, and this keeps the audience intrigued.

    What I didn’t like.

    There was little I disliked about Ironskin.  There were a few occasions where a more modern turn of phrase was used which I found a little off-putting, but other than that I really enjoyed it.  Ironskin is the first in a series of books set in this world.  The second, Copperhead, follows Jane’s younger sister, Helen.  To be honest, I’ll probably give that a miss as the character of Helen rather irritating in Ironskin and I have no interest in following her story.  However, the third book, Silverblind, due out later this year follows a grown up Dorie.  Now that I am interested in, and will certainly pick it up in audiobook when it’s available.

    I gave Ironskin four and a half stars out of five.

     buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Audible, Indiebound

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    Life After Life by Kate Atkinson is the story of Ursula Todd who has the ability to rewind mistakes in her life.  I actually found this quite a difficult book to review.  There was a lot I liked about it, but a lot that really irritated me, too.  I was really torn about what rating to give it.

    There are minor spoilers in here, so I will hide them after the cut.

    (more…)

    As my regular readers may have noticed, I review books in both ebook and audiobook format.  I thought it might be interesting to split these off for those of you who have a preferred format.

    eBook reviews can be found here.  Audiobooks reviews are here.  The full review listing is available on the homepage.

    Enjoy.

    This has been a quiet week for reading – I’ve been continuing to listen to Ironskin by Tina Connelly, narrated by Rosalyn Landor.  This is a retelling of Jane Eyre with a side helping of fae.  So far, I’m really enjoying it, and a full review will come at some point.

    I also finished Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly.  This is the start of a new mermaid based fantasy series.  I will be posting a review probably next week.

    As you may remember from last week, the other book I picked up on release day was Charlaine Harris’s new book Midnight Crossing.  I’m about a third of the way through it.  It took a little while to hook me in, but I am beginning to really enjoy it and be intrigued by the new characters.  Again, you know the drill, a review will be forthcoming.

    Much of my reading this week though has been travel based.  My husband and I are talking about perhaps doing the trans Canadian train journey next year.  At this point, it’s still very much a vague dream, but I’ve been having a great deal of fun reading up on it.  

    Added to my library this week

    Lonely Planet Canada, which I picked up in Kindle format.  Lonely Planet is my guidebook of choice and having it in Kindle format is a lot easier to manage than carrying around the 912 page hard copy.  This edition was published in March 2014 so should be pretty up to date.  As well as the possible trans Canada trip next year, my husband and I also have some city breaks planned in Ottawa and Toronto, so it should come in handy.

    The second travel related book I bought was Jim Loomis’ All Aboard: The Complete North American Train Travel Guide, again in Kindle format.  As we are hoping to make a train journey next year, this should be interesting background reading.

    In non travel related purchases, I placed an Audible preorder of The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet: A Novel.  This is the novelisation of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a transmedia YouTube adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.  The YouTube series is brilliantly written and acted and if you’re interested in those things at all you should check it out.

    Sorry for the shorter blog post this week – hope you enjoyed it anyway.

    The One by Kiera Cass is the final book in the Selection trilogy which tells the story of America Singer and her participation in the Bachelor type contest to win the heart and hand of Prince Maxon.  I absolutely ADORED this book and would have happily read it had it been three times as long.  Cass continued to develop the things I loved about the earlier books and my minor gripes about the series were all resolved.

    Before I start I would like to reecho the comment I made in an earlier post about the Selection Collection – the ebook compendium that includes all three novels plus the two novellas, The Guard and The Prince.  I honestly don’t know what the editor who put it together was thinking: they have the two novellas following on after The One which makes zero sense.  The Prince is set before The Selection and The Guard is set between The Elite and The One.  If you read them in the order presented in the compendium you’re going to end up frustrated because all of the great character development of the later books is reset.  

    What I liked

    The blend.  In The One, Cass has achieved a wonderful balance between romance, politics, worldbuilding and character development.  It all fitted together perfectly  and made a gripping story.

    Character development.  All three of the main characters seemed to gain a great deal of maturity in this book.  This is particularly true in the case of Aspen, a character whom I’d actively disliked in earlier books.  Not only did I end up liking him a lot more, but I could also respect him which is saying a lot.  In general, too, I felt America handled her romantic situation in more of an adult fashion in this book, although she did have flashes of immaturity to keep her endearing.  I liked that characters who’d seemed a little two dimensional such as Celeste became a lot more human as America’s growing maturity gave her a more understanding perspective of them.  This was an aspect of the book that I felt was particularly beautifully written.  I noted in my review of The Elite that at times it seemed that America wouldn’t necessarily be the best candidate to take on the role of princess.  By the end of The One, Cass has convinced me that she can handle it.

    The triangle.  This was one aspect which had really irritated me about the earlier books, but I felt it was exceptionally well handled here.  I appreciated that America finally resolved her feelings for the two men in her life after a date in which they had an open and honest conversation.  It also helped that that date in the rain was super adorable!  That’s not to say that things were plain sailing after that – she still made mistakes but that kept her human.

    That scene at the winner announcement.  Holy crap.  It’s not often that I have to back up and reread a few paragraphs thinking bloody hell, did that just happen?  But in this case I did.  It caught me completely off guard.  After the fact though, it’s obvious that Cass has done her work well.  All the signs and foreshadowing were there if I’d been paying attention.  

    The narration.  I’d not been too fond of Amy Rubinate’s narration of The Selection and The Elite.  Perhaps it was because I enjoyed her narration of Rebel Belle so much that I did enjoy the narration of The One much more.

    What I didn’t like

    Aborted plotlines.  There were at least one or two plotlines which really intrigued me and then seemed to disappear.  One of these in particular I felt could have led to some really interesting conflict, but was resolved rather easily.

    This is a very minor gripe, so do I really have to say that I gave The One five stars out of five?  So far it’s one of my favourite books of the year, up there with Cress.  Go read it.  Now.  

     buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Audible, eBooks.com, Indiebound 

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    This week I finally obtained 100% on Lego: Lord of the Rings on my Playstation so that itch is well and truly scratched.  This finally meant I could concentrate on reading, so I got through a couple of books – Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life and Kiera Cass’ finale to her Selection trilogy, The One.  Both of those are worth full reviews so expect those next week.

    I was interested to hear this week that Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner along with Jason Dohring has been announced as one of the narrators of the City of Heavenly Fire audiobook.  It’s one thing that has irked me about this series: the narrators have changed almost with each book.  It means that there has been little consistency in the narration.  I’ve also not been overly impressed with the narrators so far.  For this one though, I’m very glad that The Mortal Instruments is written in the third person – otherwise for me it would be confusing to have George R.R. Martin’s Sansa thinking Clary’s thoughts.  It did make for an amusing scene in my head though with Sansa and Clary having a “who’s had the worse life” argument.  Sorry, Clary, but as of City of Lost Souls and A Dance With Dragons, I think Sansa is the winner hands down.  Do you agree?  Let me know in the comments.

    Added to my library this week

    I realised this week that I didn’t actually have a copy of the rest of Kiera Cass’s The Selection series, so I picked up the Series collection on Kindle which contains all three books as well as The Prince and The Guard novellas.  I honestly don’t know what the editor who put it together was thinking: they have the two novellas following on after The One which makes zero sense.  The Prince is set before The Selection and The Guard is set between The Elite and The One.  If you read them in the order presented in the compendium you’re going to end up frustrated because all of the great character development of the later books is reset.  I will be reviewing The One next week, so keep an eye out for that.

    This week saw the release of Charlaine Harris’s Midnight Crossroad, which is the first in her new series which seems to centre around a Texas town with supernatural inhabitants.  I loved her Sookie Stackhouse so this is next on my TBR list. I picked it up in both Kindle and Audible formats.

    This week I received my Audible $10 gift certificate for having bought more than four books last month so I put it towards Ironskin by Tina Connolly.  This is a reimagining of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre – with magic and fae.  I was interested in the concept and the sample narration I listened to seemed excellent.  

    The last book I picked up this week was a bit of an impulse buy – I picked up Jennifer Donnelly’s Deep Blue, the first book in the Waterfire Saga.  The premise caught my imagination – mermaids!  prophesies!  female friends banding together to fight evil!  I picked it up in both Kindle and Audible formats.

    Have a  good week!

    Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins is a young adult supernatural novel which tells the story of Southern belle teen Harper Price who, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, finds herself with supernatural abilities and the awesome responsibility that comes along with them.  While there was a lot I liked about the book, there was still a great deal I felt could have been handled better.
     
    What I liked

    The writing style.  This is the first book by Hawkins that I have read and I did really enjoy her fresh, witty writing style.  There was a lot of humour to be mined from the juxtaposition of Harper’s Southern belle character and her new kickass ninja powers and I enjoyed that very much.   I also felt the pacing was kept brisk and the storyline moved along nicely.
     
    The narration.  I listened to Rebel Belle in audiobook format, which is narrated by Amy Rubinate.  Now, I’d not been too fond of Rubinate’s narration of Kiera Cass’s The Selection series, but I did enjoy listening to her read Rebel Belle.  Perhaps the smart, sassy heroine of this book is better suited to Rubinate’s narrative style.  Here’s a sample
     
      
    The concept. The concept of oracles, paladins and mages was very interesting and i enjoyed reading about it.  However, the execution wasn’t always logical and/or consistent.
     
    What I didn’t like

    Bland characters.  Other than Harper, the other characters come across as very two dimensional.  Ryan, Harper’s original love interest, is nice but there’s nothing to distinguish him from a million other teenage boys.  The villain of the piece is also very underdeveloped.  She is not present enough in the book to develop sufficient tension.  
     
    Harper’s “logic”.  At times I became so frustrated with Harper’s way of thinking.  So many times she seemed to find that two plus two equals five and at other times she seemed to willfully ignore what was right in front of her.  While some of it I could put down to unreliable narrator, a lot of it did seem very convenient.  At times I was uncertain if it was good characterisation that a lot of Harper’s motivations come from personal grief, or if the way the character was written was clumsy.   The ending was also very contrived.  The error she makes at the end just doesn’t make any sense.  
     
    I gave Rebel Belle three and a half stars out of five.  I probably will check out the next book in the series.  I hear Hawkins’ Hex Hall series is better so I will probably pick that up at some point.
     

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    This has been a very quiet week on the reading front.  I’m currently reading/listening to two books; Life after Life by Kate Atkinson and Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins.  Both of these are good books, but not enough to drag me away from Lego Lord of the Rings/Hobbit on my Playstation, which I can’t stop playing right now.  This means that I’m probably not going to blog as regularly over the next few weeks while I work that out of my system.  Additionally, I’m planning on marathoning Season 8 of 24 this weekend because JACK IS BACK and I want to catch up before the premiere on Monday.  I hope that if I do take a break I’ll come back to reading more refreshed in a month or two.

    I did also pick up a couple of samples to read.  I downloaded a sample of Gameboard of the Gods, the first in the Age of X series by Richelle Mead.  As my readers will know, I adored her Vampire Academy series.  I have to admit the sample I read did not immediately grab me.  With some books I am hooked from the first few pages, with others it takes me a little longer. For Gameboard of the Gods, I didn’t feel the sample was long enough to give me a real sense of the characters and the world in which they live.  It’s also fair to say Vampire Academy didn’t grab me immediately.  I see it’s available in ebook format from my local library so I may read it that way.

    One disadvantage (or advantage, depending on your point of view) of eReaders is that it prevents your spying on what fellow commuters are reading during their trip.  One lady on my metro the other day was reading the book whose cover is on the left, Dawn’s Early Light.  Now normally, I am not overly drawn in by covers but that one caught my eye.  First, I was extremely annoyed at the way the female character was portrayed.  Then I was intrigued by the juxtaposition of the sexy outfit with airman’s goggles.  it was enough for me to Google it when I got home and, as I had guessed it is in the steampunk genre.  The blurb sounded fun, so I have downloaded the sample of the first book in the series, Phoenix Rising, and will let you know how I get on.  

    Added to my library this week:

    I have been very restrained this week.  I only added two books to my library.  The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black (warmly recommended by several booktubers).  This was one sample which did hook me in immediately.  It’s a YA vampire novel, and I picked it up in both Kindle and Audible formats.

    The other book I bought, in Audible format, was Rebel Belle.  This is about a Southern teenager, Harper, a very feminine, proper young lady, who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and ends up having to fight evil.  The contrast between Harper’s girly girl side and her having to get her hands dirty being a Paladin promises to be a lot of fun.

    That’s all for today.  Have a good week folks!