Monday, 17 December 2012

Review: One for the Money - Janet Evanovich

One For The Money (Stephanie Plum, #1)One For The Money by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

3.5 stars

This is one that people have suggested I read for quite a while, but I never got around to it. It was released as a film this year starring Katherine Heigl, but it must have been a bit of a flop because I hadn't even heard of it. There is a movie tie in version of the book, but I don't know if that's just a cover change or whether it's been updated a bit.

Stephanie Plum is from New Jersey. She's still expected at her parents' house for dinner at 6pm sharp every evening. She's been without a job for 6 months and has run out of things to hock. Her phone has been cut off and the repo guy (who she went to primary school with) is coming for her Mazda Miata in the morning. Her cousin Vinnie is looking for someone to do some filing, so she swallows her pride and goes to check it out. It turns out the filing job is taken but he does need someone to take over the case load of one of his agents who is in the hospital. Vinnie provides bail to those who need it. If they skip bail, he sends someone to bring them in. After she blackmails him with the threat of telling his wife exactly what he likes to do to ducks (!!!), Vinnie agrees to give her a week to bring in a big murder case. Joe Morelli was a cop charged with murder. He also took Stephanie's virginity when she was sixteen and let the world know about it. She might just enjoy bringing him in.

I enjoyed this quite a bit once the story actually got going. There are a lot of characters to introduce and there's also a lot of description of the neighbourhood. It's dated, almost 20 years old and it really shows. Big hair and spandex a plenty. The story itself holds up well though. It's a fairly standard murder mystery with a bumbling heroine who manages to get herself beaten up far more than is healthy, but it made me laugh in places and I finished it in a day as I was keen to see what would happen next. Next time I have a gap in my reading schedule I'll read the next one.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Review: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

What Alice ForgotWhat Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alice Love is 29 and expecting her first child. She's madly in love with her husband, Nick and they're renovating their dream house. Only this was all 10 years ago. Alice fell at her step class and banged her head and has lost the last 10 years. She has no memory of her 3 children and is shocked to discover that she and Nick are headed for divorce. What on earth has happened over the past 10 years to get her to this point? And when she remembers, will she want to go back to life with Nick or will her memories reinforce the choices she can't remember making?

This was a lovely book. It captures really well the realities of life with children and indeed life without children. Alice's journey is believable and quite moving. The asides, in the form of journal and blog, from Elisabeth and Frannie provided moving and amusing counterpoints and really helped flesh out the secondary characters and fill some holes for the reader.

This was a deal of the day on Amazon and was more than worth the 99p purchase. I would recommend it even at full price.

Particularly recommended for those closer to 40 than 30, with a slight warning for those who might find discussion of recurrent miscarriage and infertility upsetting.

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Saturday, 1 December 2012

Review: Gravity by Melissa West

Gravity (The Taking, #1)Gravity by Melissa West
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review based on an e-galley provided by Entangled Publishing.

First impressions:

I was first taken by the beautiful cover. It's just gorgeous. Then I read the first chapter and knew I had to read the rest. The extract ends with Ari saying, "Everything that just happened is swarming my thoughts at once, but one thought rises above all the others... I'm not sure I can wait until tomorrow night to find out what's going on." That summed up how I felt exactly. The premise of the story really grabbed me from the start and I wanted to see what would happen next. A sci fi, dystopian, young adult novel. And interesting combination!

The story:

Ari Alexander is 17, the daughter of one of the most powerful and respected families, not just in the city of Sydia, but in all of America, and indeed the world. Her father is the Engineer General, and she has trained her whole life to take his place.

Following the last, devastating world war, the Earth was invaded by a race of aliens known as The Ancients. The Ancients offered to terraform the Earth and make it habitable again, but they extracted a price from the human leaders. In order to survive on Earth they required human antibodies; every human, once they reach age 10, become a host for an Ancient who harvests their antibodies in a process known as "the taking". One night, Ari can't find her patch, the seemingly innocuous piece of cloth that renders humans helpless during the taking. Finding herself unable to resist, she opens her eyes, curious about the Ancient who takes from her every night. She is shocked to find her classmate, Jackson Locke. Could it be possible that the Ancients are living among them, masquerading as human?

Jackson promises her answers, but she has to wait. What she discovers causes her to question everything she's ever known. War between the Ancients and humans is looming. Which side will Ari choose? Will she stop the war or help destroy the Ancients and free humans from their perceived slavery?

The verdict:

I loved the first three quarters of the book. It was pacey and kept me turning pages to see what would happen next. Ari is a strong character who is faced with a difficult moral dilemma. Gretchen, as her best friend, is less well developed. We know she loves fashion, but don't really get a good sense of who she is. Lawrence, the other member of their trio, is even more duty bound than Ari. I'd have liked to see more of him. Jackson is charismatic and mysterious and it's little wonder that Ari falls for him quite quickly. There is a nice amount of romantic development, but it doesn't overshadow the main story.

The last quarter of the book wasn't as satisfying. The build towards the climax seemed quite rushed and the first person present tense narrative, difficult to pull off at the best of times, got a little messy at points. There were a couple of sentences which could have been more tightly edited, but then I am quite pedantic.

This is the first of a series, not a stand alone novel, so of course the ending leaves a lot of loose ends and lots more room for development. I look forward to finding out about Loge, the Ancients' home world and seeing what exactly Jackson has planned.

It's reminiscent of recent YA offerings, particularly Matched and Divergent and stacks up well against them. At one point I thought it might even be better than Matched, but I found the final quarter of the book somewhat dissatisfying.

Definitely worth a read, even if you're not normally a fan of sci fi.

View all my reviews

Friday, 30 November 2012

Harry Potter Studio Tour

As my time in the UK is drawing to a close, I've been thinking about things I definitely wanted to do before leaving and one of them was to visit the Warner Brother's Studio and do the Harry Potter tour.

Yesterday was the day and it was completely amazing and totally worth the money for a fan of the films, or indeed the books.

There are props and sets and costumes and the whole experience is just magical. There's also a bit of a surprise at the end that I won't spoil for you. There are pictures after the jump.

It was an amazing day and highly worth a visit. I hope you enjoy the little peek below.

Update: It's been three years now since my visit, and I've put together a little animoto video of my photos. You can see some of them in higher res after the jump, but there are some here I haven't shared before.

You start in the great hall which is just as magical as in the films - even without the ceiling. There's a short talk from one of the guides talking about different aspects of the set and the production and introducing the various costumes. The level of detail is extraordinary and that's true of every aspect of the set and tour. After the great hall you move through two different sound stages, as well as an external area where you can try butter beer (which I gave a miss). There are all the main sets you would recognise  and thousands of props, many you'd have never noticed in the films but they all contributed to making the films so magical.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

At a loss!

My kindle broke on Saturday. It was my second one and I'd had it just over a year so unfortunately it was outside its warranty period. The screen has some type of internal crack, I think, as part of it is static and part of it updates.

Because it's out of warranty I couldn't get it repaired or replaced, but Amazon offered me a replacement at 20% off and as Sunday was our wedding anniversary my lovely husband (who can be found at offered to buy me a new one.

I've been a bit lost the last couple of days, especially when I've been unable to sleep. I've had to read on my iPhone which isn't a great experience. My eyes aren't as young as they used to be.

So goodbye to my trusty keyboard version, and hopefully soon it will be hello to my "Kindle 4" with no keyboard. I didn't think it'd like the touch version, I don't like reading on the iPad or iPhone and having to swipe to change pages, so I'll see how I get on with this one. Reduced memory and battery life may be an issue, we'll just have to see. I wasn't given the option of a keyboard option though.

Hopefully I'll be reading again soon, and I'll be posting my review of Insurgent once I have my new Kindle and can check a few things.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Review of The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa

I was really excited to get a copy of this book. I loved The Iron Fey series although I haven't blogged about them before as I couldn't really find the words to describe them. I also reviewed The Immortal Rules earlier this year and loved it. I have to admit, I have a little bit of a girlie crush on Julie Kagawa. She's a gamer, she references Joss Whedon shows in her books and she's a brilliant writer.  So with the disclaimer that I might be slightly biased in this, here's my review of the upcoming The Lost Prince.

The Lost Prince (The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten, #1)The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This review is based on an eGalley kindly provided by Harlequin Teen. The Lost Prince is due for release on October 30th 2012.

This may contain spoilers for The Iron Fey series up until this point, be warned.

Here's what the publisher has to say about it:

In Faery, there are always more tales to tell…
It has been thirteen years since Meghan Chase vanished into the Nevernever to become the Iron Queen, leaving her family and her half brother, Ethan, behind. But that doesn't mean the fey left them alone, or forgot about them. Now seventeen, Ethan Chase is an expert on all things faery and feels nothing but rage toward the creatures who stole his sister so long ago.

Ethan Chase is all grown up. He is carrying around a boat load of resentment that his sister, Meghan, went off to be a faery queen and left him and his family. He has spent his whole life trying to get away from the fey who, aware that he has the Sight, follow, trick and torment him and those around him. He has isolated himself so as not to endanger anybody else, making himself look as mean and unapproachable as possible. So on his first day in a new school, he's surprised when the popular and beautiful Kenzie approaches him and refuses to take the hint that he'd rather be alone.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Beautiful Disaster (Beautiful, #1)Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Here's the marketing copy:
The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University's Walking One-Night Stand.

Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby needs—and wants—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.

This was a review copy. The book is set to be published August 14th by Simon & Schuster imprint Atria. It has also apparently been optioned by Warner Bros.

If you liked Edward Cullen's obsessive side, then you will probably enjoy this book. If you want more info, read on.

This is not a YA book, but it reads like one. That's not an insult, I love a lot of YA books, I mean it's quite angsty. Although the characters are over 18 and drink, swear (quite a lot), fight (graphically) and have sex (a substantial amount), the themes and tone are very similar to a lot of YA books.

And seriously, do they only teach mitosis in Biology classes in the US?

Anyway, about the story. Abby Abernathy and her best friend America have moved from Kansas to Eastern University to give Abby a fresh start and help her escape her as yet unspecified tortured past. She is playing the part of prim, innocent college freshman when America drags her along to watch her boyfriend Shepley's cousin, Travis 'Mad Dog' Maddox fight in what's known as the Circle, an underground, bare-fisted, no rules fight in random basements of the College.

More after the jump...

Monday, 30 July 2012

Review: Shadow of Night - Deborah Harkness

Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy, #2)Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked it. Less yoga, more badassness.

In A Discovery of Witches Diana finds an ancient bewitched book, perhaps the very first Grimoire, and discovers that much as she wants to, she cannot hide from her identify as a witch. Finding the book puts Diana in the way of every witch, daemon and vampire in Oxford and it is down to the enigmatic vampire, Matthew Clairmont, to protect her. Inevitably they fall in love. It is forbidden for two different creatures to fall in love so Diana and Matthew now face the ire of every creature on the planet and worst of all made them outlaws in the eyes of the Congregation. At the end of the book Matthew and Diana are attempting to time walk to medieval England in order to find a which who can help Diana discover how to use her powers and to find Ashmole 782, the book that started everything, and discover its secrets.

Shadow of Night is quite a different book to A Discovery of Witches. It begins as Diana and Matthew step, quite literally, into the past and land in late 16th century England. The search for a witch is not as easy as Matthew thought it would be. Witch trials in Scotland are making everyone fearful and some of Matthew's friends, notably the daemon Kit Marlowe, are suspicious of Diana and her strange ways.

Review: The Love of my Life - Louise Douglas

The Love Of My LifeThe Love Of My Life by Louise Douglas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this more than I thought I would. It was an Amazon cheapy (under £1) so I thought I'd give it a go.

Olivia turns up at her sister's house in tears after leaving her in-laws' restaurant. Lynette, her ever faithful older sister, tucks her in to bed and asks no questions. Later, she gives Liv a laptop and suggests that she right it all down, and this is the novel.

We are presented with two timelines - the teenage Liv and the development of her romance with the gorgeous Luca, and the adult Liv, reeling from the sudden and unexpected loss of her husband, trying to deal with her grief.

Liv and her brother-in-law, Marc, find solace in each other's arms. Each is all the other has left of Luca and neither is ready to let that go.

As the story progresses we find out why Angela (her mother-in-law) and Nathalie (sister-in-law) hate her so much and we follow Liv to acceptance and eventual healing.

The story could have been very heavy handed and overly sentimental, but it's not. We follow Liv through her grief, but we're not made to wallow in it. I enjoyed the development of the story and wanted to find out what she had done that was so bad. The conclusion was satisfying and the story interesting enough to keep me turning pages.

Possibly a little heavy for poolside reading, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Infinite Tides - Christian Kiefer

The Infinite Tides
Due to be published July 2nd 2012 by Bloomsbury.

Here's what the publishers have to say about it:
"A stunning debut novel about an astronaut's return to earth and the losses he must confront—elegant, moving, and deeply resonant with our times.
The Infinite Tides is a deeply moving, tragicomic story of love, loss, and resilience. It is also an indelible and nuanced portrait of modern American life, rendering our strengths and weaknesses with great and tender beauty."

And here's what I have to say about it:

Astronaut Keith Corcoran returns to Earth after a successful mission to the International Space Station. His whole life was focused on his goal of becoming an astronaut and as he achieves his life long ambition, tragedy strikes his family. He returns to Earth without the wife and child he left with and has in their place crippling migraines and a general disconnectedness to his surroundings. Intending to prepare the family home for sale, he returns to the empty house at his soon to be ex-wife's bidding to meet with the realtor and finalise details. He finds the house stripped of all possessions apart from one - the giant grey sofa that he hated and his wife insisted on having.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Divergent - Veronica Roth

Divergent (Divergent, #1)Divergent by Veronica Roth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is another book I've been meaning to read for a while. It was recommended to me by the same person who recommended The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare and The Iron Fey by Julie Kagawa, so I was pretty sure I'd enjoy it, I just had a lot of other books I wanted to get through first.

The story is set in Chicago after a devastating war. The survivors decided to set up five factions - Candor, Erudite, Dauntless, Amity and Abnegation. The members of each faction exhibit and uphold the qualities of their faction. At 16 all young people sit an aptitude test to tell them in which faction they'd best fit, then they get to choose for themselves.

This is where we meet Beatrice and her brother Caleb. It's the day of the test, and the day before they select the faction they'll belong to for life

Things might get a bit spoilery after the jump - be warned. If you want to avoid any spoilers, just know that it's great and you should go read it now. If you don't mind mild spoilers and you want to know more, then read on...

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Dead Reckoning - Charlaine Harris

Note: Contains spoilers for this and previous books in the series.

This is the eleventh book in the Southern Vampire Mysteries/Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood series.

The story:
Sandra Pelt is out of prison and gunning for Sookie. She's crazier than ever and won't stop until she gets what she wants or winds up dead. Relations between Sookie and Eric are strained. There's something he's not telling her and that's also causing problems between Eric and Pam. Pam's human lover, Miriam, is dying and Victor won't allow her to bring her over. Victor tries to provoke Eric into attacking him so that he can kill him. The fairies are up to something and Sookie can't figure out what it is, but she knows she's feeling her fairy heritage more strongly the longer Dermot and Claude stay with her. While going through the attic furniture she finds a letter from her grandmother detailing her affair with Fintan along with a fairy artefact, known as a Cluvial Dor, which grants its owner one wish. Sookie also discovers where her telepathy came from.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

The Immortal Rules - Julie Kagawa

The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden, #1)The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book will be published on April 24th 2012 I read the Iron Fey series and was really impressed with Julie Kagawa's take on the genre. Her character's voices were authentic without lapsing into the "teen speak" which afflicts some other YA fiction. Her faeries were real and menacing, so I was very much looking forward to her take on vampires.

I wasn't disappointed. I've tried to be as spoiler free as possible and not give away much more than is on the cover, but if you're avoiding any spoilers at all, proceed with caution.

...they're vampires, I wanted to say. Monsters. They only see us as two things: slaves and food. Nothing good comes from a bloodsucker, you know that.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Me Before YouMe Before You by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've had this on my Kindle for a couple of months. It's one of the purchases I made with the voucher I got for my birthday. I'd been told that it was good, but a tearjerker, so I'd been holding off on reading it a bit, but after the rather awful book I finished on Sunday I wanted something I knew would be good.

I was right. I read the whole book in a day and wanted to start reading it again the next morning.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Wedding Tiers

Wedding TiersWedding Tiers by Trisha Ashley
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I bought this in the Kindle sale after being attracted by the sample. I really wish I hadn't bothered.

Wedding Tiers introduces us to Josie, recently orphaned, who has moved to the idyllic village of Neatslake to live with her Grandmother, her only remaining relative. There she meets the brusque but oh-so-soft-really Libby; a girl from the wrong side of the tracks determined to marry well and better her situation. She also meets the handsome Ben, who instantly becomes her friend and later her lover.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The Darker Side of Love - Jessica Ruston

The Darker Side of LoveThe Darker Side of Love by Jessica Ruston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in London over a two year period, The Darker Side of Love follows four friends, Caroline, Izzy, Harriet and Stella. Caroline is about to marry Bart, the man of her dreams, and she's desperate to start a family with him. Izzy and James have been married for years and seem the image of domestic bliss, but Izzy is bored of the housewife routine and it's not the best time to be an investment banker, especially with a secret such as James has. Harriet is desperate to marry long-time boyfriend Will but he seems oblivious to the fact, or perhaps he is deliberately avoiding it. Stella and would-be-rockstar husband Johnny don't have the most conventional of relationships, but Stella knows he always comes home to her and their son Viking.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Crossed by Allie Condie

CrossedCrossed by Ally Condie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Matched blew me away, I really loved it, so I've been eagerly awaiting Crossed. It's taken me a little while to get around to reading it, but it was definitely worth the wait.