All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

The Boys Next Door & Endless Summer – Jennifer Echols

These two books are published together in my version. If you’re going to read them, it’s best to read them in order (The Boys Next Door first and then Endless Summer). I’m going to review them both together in this post, but talk about them separately, if that makes sense.

In The Boys Next Door we meet Lori who is about to turn 16. Lori lost her mother when she was younger and was raised by her father, a nanny/au pair named Frances and spent most of her time hanging out with her older brother Bill (who is known by the nickname McGillicuddy) and the three boys next door, Adam, Sean and Cameron Vader. During the summer she works at the Vader’s marina store and wakeboards with the Vader’s and her brother in her spare time. She’s a total tomboy who has absolutely no idea how to flirt or be feminine or anything! But now that she’s turning 16 she’s determined to be noticed by Sean Vader, who is two years older, has just graduated and will be off to college in the summer. She thinks that Sean is the one for her because of something her mother said to her about twelve years ago. She also places a lot of emphasis on her 16th birthday because of how important her mother stressed it was, making her a scrapbook for it and telling her stories about the lovely ‘grown up’ ring she herself got from her parents on her 16th birthday. Because of these two things combined, Lori is absolutely sure she’s going to hook Sean Vader and awkwardly puts in motion a plan to catch his eye. Stage 1 is “Cleavage revealing top” and Stage 2 is “bikini”.

Lori is clueless. Oh, so, clueless. But’s kind of appealing in her own way and it’s obvious to see just how much her sheltered and tomboyish upbringing has had to do with her naivety. When she spies who she thinks is Adam, the youngest brother and about her best friend kissing his girlfriend at one of the famous Vader parties, she makes her way in to try her luck with Sean. But the Vader brothers look very much alike and when she gets close to the brother inside she realises that that one is Adam – so therefore it is Sean kissing Adam’s girlfriend Rachel outside!

Lori is crushed but she comes up with a genius plan – her and Adam will pretend to hook up and make Sean and Rachel crazy with jealousy! Adam is surprisingly into the plan and is willing to do anything *cough* to make it seem real and it’s him that draws Lori into steamy kisses and embraces, despite the fact that this was all Lori’s idea. Suddenly Lori starts to wonder – which Vader brother is she really after?

Like all Jennifer Echols novels, this one was cute. Lori was likable despite being extremely stupid at times when it came to boys and she tried so hard but she really was rather sweet underneath. Adam was one of Echol’s heroes-with-a-twist this one being that he suffers from ADHD, can’t sit still and does crazy stunts that often put him in hospital. I liked Adam and I loved how even though he was the crazy one, he almost grounded Lori. His family frustrated me because it seemed that Adam was blamed for a lot of things because of his ADHD when really Sean was just a total and utter d*ck to him. Sean was extremely irritating – player, disloyal to his family, rude and unfair to his brother, using the weakest spots to hit  him with and he even lashes out at Lori cruelly and unfairly during one scene where they are all watching a movie at the Vader’s. Sean needed a good sharp slap and a dressing down and I found myself wanting to reach into the book and shake Lori to her senses because Sean was just…nothing.

Despite a few nitpicks, I really did enjoy this cute story. It was a fun summer afternoon read and I love passing the time with these YA romances because they’re just light and sweet. It’s not my favourite Jennifer Echols book but I’d still recommend it to anyone who likes her other novels, or who likes these sorts of teen reads!

7/10

Endless Summer starts only moments after the conclusion of The Boys Next Door. Lori and her new boyfriend manage to get themselves into some hot water when they go out on their first sort-of real date and fall asleep, meaning that Lori is very late home, breaking curfew and angering her father, who immediately goes into ‘overprotective’ mode, banning Lori from seeing her boyfriend all summer. Lori is devastated, especially when new boyfriend’s parents agree, thinking that they’re not responsible or mature enough to handle the sort of relationship they’re diving into and that some time apart will be good for some growing up.

Lori, who is disastrous at making plans, comes up with another corker – she’s going to make her dad change his mind about letting her see new boyfriend because she’s going to pretend to date a string of other guys who will make new boyfriend look squeaky clean. New boyfriend isn’t entirely happy about this idea (err, who would be?) but Lori is Lori and once she’s on a roll, she can’t be stopped. She is sure this is the best way to reversing her dad’s rule and she dives into it headlong, choosing several candidates and setting up her ‘first date’.

Sigh. This clearly had ‘spectacular fail’ written all over it from 300 paces but Lori is like a bulldozer, refusing to listen to reason, refusing to just think for one minute that this sort of behaviour might be why she got herself grounded from new boyfriend in the first place! Not to mention that new boyfriend of 5 minutes isn’t in love with the idea and everytime he gets jealous or hurt from her actions, he seeks to hurt her back because he doesn’t know how else to let her know that what she’s doing is upsetting him and he’s a teenage boy and they’re not very good at expressing their feelings. When her first attempt fails Lori still doesn’t learn her lesson and she steps it up yet another notch, choosing the person who will hit new boyfriend below the belt the absolute hardest.

Okay here’s where I kind of didn’t love this book. I like love triangles to a certain degree – but this wasn’t a love triangle and Lori was basically just hooking up with another guy in front of her boyfriend (even though she didn’t actually know he was there watching, she had told him what she intended) and it just seemed too far to believably be part of a plan to let her see new boyfriend. It seemed a bit too hurtful and even though we’ve established in The Boys Next Door that Lori is immature and clueless around boys and in relationships you can’t tell me that there is a girl out there who thinks she could do that and not hurt her significant other. I’m avoiding saying who her boyfriend is, and who the guy is that she uses so as I don’t spoil the previous book but I’m quite certain that anyone who reads the first novel will be able to guess who I am alluding to.

I normally love sequels! I’m a big sequel fan. But this one, even though it was written by an author I’ve really come to love recently, just didn’t do it for me. That’s not to say I disliked it altogether – I did like it and it was still an amusing read, despite the fact that it probably seems otherwise in this review. I just think the core issue could’ve been a little bit more…dramatic and the way in which it was dealt with, not so close to cheating with permission (or in this case, without it) as possible. Lori just couldn’t see how disastrous her plan was, and even when it backfired in her face she couldn’t see it! She still kept wanting to go on and take it to another (even more ridiculous) level. She needed a female friend with half a lick of sense to seriously pull her up short and give her a better way to handle it. Because there really were better ways – and in fact, the perfect way ends this book. And if only Lori had allowed that to happen earlier, all the mess would’ve been avoided.

A bit disappointing after the previous standard I’m used to from this author, but not hopeless!

5/10

Book #100 and #101 of my 100 Book Challenge.

Yay! My 100 Book Challenge of 2010 is complete!

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Top 8 – Katie Finn

I have to say that I’m extremely glad I graduated high school before the Myspace craze took over and it was all about who was on your friends list and how many friends you had, who was in your Top 8 and whose Top 8 you were in. When I was in high school the internet was almost a foreign thing in Australia, especially high speed internet! We got dial up when I was about 16 and my brother and I were restricted to 1hr each per night because it tied up the phone line! When I was first ‘online’, ICQ chat was all the rage! Then along came MSN and kinda blew ICQ out of the water but thankfully, I was in my early 20’s before social networking sites such as Myspace exploded.

Madison McDonald is 16, pretty, popular, has the perfect boyfriend (of just 17 days and counting!) and obsessed with Friendsverse, which is the new Facebook, which was the new Myspace. She loves checking her profile, updating her status and re-arranging her Top 8 friends. When her parents announce that the whole family is going on a cruise around the Galapagos Islands for Spring Break, Madison isn’t all that excited because there’s no internet on the boat and she can’t check her Friendsverse profile for two weeks!

When she does arrive home, the first thing she does is log on. When she loads up her Friendsverse page, she is horrified! Not only is the picture one of the most unflattering of her ever taken, her whole profile has been changed! Her profile was hacked while she was away and it gets worse – whoever hacked it let some secrets out of the bag that Madison was privy to and left some very insulting or suggestive messages on the pages of her friends. Madison finds out that a lot of people at her school are very angry with her right now and whoever hacked her profile also broke up with her boyfriend over Friendsverse!

Madison is determined to find out who hacked her profile and tried to ruin her life. But first she has to repair some damage done by the hacker and learn a few lessons about herself along the way. There’s also the rather cute boy who was on the Galapagos Islands tour with his family that turns out to live just one town over, who keeps bobbing up and confusing things. Madison already had the perfect boyfriend and she’s determined to get him back – so why does she keep thinking about Nate?

I borrowed this book on a whim, because I like reading books that are in slightly different formats. This one utilises a layout like a social networking page, giving us a look at Madison’s profile, Nate’s, the comments her and her friends leave each other, their status updates and chats, etc amongst the more traditional story layout. What I wasn’t prepared for was how much I enjoyed the story. Madison has her flaws – she has been confided in by her fellow students on certain things, and even though she ‘promises’ not to tell anyone, she does tell some people. She tries to justify this saying that she would never put it on the internet, but she has still betrayed confidences. It gives her a clue though that the hacker must be someone who knows the things she knows, and who as someone in the book puts it ‘cares enough about you to do something like this’. It’s then that Madison realises it isn’t just someone who holds a small grudge against her, or someone who did it for fun. It’s something much more than that.

I didn’t pick the hacker! I thought it was someone else for most of the book and when Madison figured out who it was I was pretty surprised. What I really liked about this book was the underlying messages of being genuine. Madison thinks that she did nothing wrong by telling ‘a few people’ what others had told her – but she soon found out that all it takes is telling one person and you could be branded untrustworthy forever. Eventually she comes to see the error of her ways in talking about people behind their back and sharing the secrets of others and she learns a lesson that encourages her to be upfront about her mistakes and apologise to everyone. This book is also a bit of a warning to be careful about what you put online and how people can access it if you’re not careful! It’s a pretty relevant topic in this day and age where everyone is online and it’s very easy to find out information about people without leaving your house. Teenagers especially are pretty free with putting their lives in all their glory – the good, the bad and the ugly online and I’ve seen many a facebook status argument that has turned into an airing of dirty laundry for everyone involved.

Sometimes I read novels with teen protagonists and think ‘I know it was quite a while since I was a teen, but seriously, they do not talk/behave like that’. The danger can be having 16yos that act like they’re 25 in an attempt to produce a grown up and interesting story that will pull in the older crowd as well. I think that this story does really nail how teenagers act these days – the dialogue was good, current without being too pop culture, the actions believable. Madison was likable and fun, despite her flaws and her determination to fix things was admirable. She never gave up, even when everyone was shutting her down and I admired her for that. The cast of supporting characters were fun and the sort of people you might like to have had as friends yourself, especially Nate! And as for the culprit – that’s believable too. I’d say there’s many a teenage girl, past and present, that can testify to that, myself included.

I see there’s a sequel to this novel called What’s Your St@tus. Think I’ll be reading that too for more on Madison and Co.

8/10

Book #99 of my 100 Book Challenge

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Silent In The Sanctuary – Deanna Raybourn

Silent in the Sanctuary, book #2 of the Lady Julia Grey series opens up sometime after the conclusion of the first novel. Lady Julia has fully recovered from the near-catastrophe that occurred and has been spending some time in Italy with two of her brothers, Plum and Lysander. Lysander has just married a Neapolitan and the three siblings have received a summons from their father to scurry back to England for Christmas. It is to be a lavish affair with quite a few guests.

One guest Lady Julia perhaps isn’t prepared to see is Nicholas Brisbane, her partner in the investigation of her husband’s death in Silent in the Grave. She hasn’t heard a word from Brisbane for sometime, and she can see why when he introduces her to his fiancée, a Mrs King. Lady Julia is quite stunned but takes the chance to show Brisbane that she has other options – namely a 25yo Florentine named Alessandro, a friend of Plum and Lysander’s who they insisted accompany them to England and spend Christmas at the March House.

The family celebrations grind to a screaming halt when a guest is found murdered in the chapel, part of the old deconsecrated abbey that is March House. One of Lady Julia’s unfortunately poor cousins who used to spend Easters at  March House confesses to the crime but a blizzard cuts March House off from the town and investigators are unable to arrive right away. Refusing to believe that her cousin could possibly be a killer, Lady Julia teams up with Nicholas Brisbane again to try and find out what really happened and who the real murderer is. There’s also a few other mysteries going on at the same time, such as the theft of the Grey Pearls, left to Lady Julia by her late husband Sir Edward Grey and the intrigue surrounding exactly why Brisbane is engaged if he can’t seem to keep himself away from Lady Julia!

After reading the first novel in this series not so long ago, I requested the second in from my library as soon as I got back from my holidays and I read through it in a day. I think I enjoyed the second novel even more than I did the first because I wasn’t learning about the characters, I was returning to them now and I was so interested in what had gone wrong between Lady Julia and Brisbane. At the conclusion of the first novel, you’re led to believe that they’re heading in one direction and when you begin reading this novel you find out that hasn’t occurred at all and if anything, they seem to have gone in the opposite direction.

Firstly, I really enjoyed Lady Julia’s character development in this novel. In the first, she is still tightly laced into society’s ways, mousy and timid from her disastrous and unhappy marriage to Sir Edward and sort of desperate to escape her eccentric family and have a show of decorum and manners. Slowly throughout that novel, her true self begins to emerge, primarily drawn out by her irate response to Brisbane at times and in this novel, I think she is truly herself. She is no longer conforming to the constraints of the English upper class and seems to find delight in speaking her mind. She baits Brisbane, simply because she knows she can, and because she wants answers from him and she realises that she knows him well enough to deduce when he is lying to her or deceiving her and her irritation and cattiness towards Mrs King was I thought, another very believable action. As much as she tried to be polite, she still let a thin veneer of dislike seep through. I enjoy their attraction between Lady Julia and Brisbane and the pace of it has satisfied me thus far but with the conclusion of this book I’m ready for them to step it up a notch!

Brisbane himself undergoes some decent growth himself and I thought his reason for not contacting Lady Julia was very believable in its simplicity, especially given the type of man we have been shown that he is. He doesn’t like to make mistakes and he believes he made a very grave one during their previous acquaintance. I love their interactions, their verbal sparring and the stolen kisses, Brisbane’s attempt to play the faithful fiance and Lady Julia’s attempt to discredit it. I especially enjoyed the two scenes where it is Lady Julia who is the aggressor – once to prove that Brisbane has deceived her on a matter, and tricked her, and the other simply because it is what she wants to do. Both times Brisbane is sort of powerless to her and all too often we’re given scenes with the heroine weak at the knees while the hero strides off. I like equality, so I like these two.

The mystery itself perhaps wasn’t quite as intriguing as the first one but it was still quite enjoyable and with a couple of extra added twists at the end that I didn’t expect – and the extra bonus of the thief of the pearls is quite easily picked but the conclusion of that was also quite amusing.

The third novel in this series is currently checked out of my local library and I am extremely tempted to go out today and see if I can buy it and the fourth novel together. I tried seeing if they were available for my Kindle (nope) so now I’m going to try a couple of places around town and see if I can get lucky! If not, it’s going to be an annoying wait for book #3!

8/10

Book #98 of my 100 Book Challenge

I’m counting this novel as part of my 2010 Global Challenge. Originally I didn’t intend to, as my first European novel was set in Scotland and I was going to read a novel set on mainland Europe for my second choice but I’m kind of running out of time, there’s only a month left to go in the challenge and I still have 3 other books to read to complete it! This one just happened to be conveniently be set in a place I could include!

The Medium Challenge
Read two novels from each of these continents in the course of 2010:
Africa: #1: A Change In Altitude, by Anita Shreve. Set in Kenya. #2 Tea Time For The Traditionally Built,by Alexander McCall Smith. Set in Botswana.
Asia: #1: The Blood of Flowers, by Anita Amirrezvani. Set in Persia/Iran. #2 February Flowers, by Fan Wu. Set in China.
Australasia: #1: Vodka Doesn’t Freeze, by Leah Giarratano. Set in Sydney, Australia. #2 The Denniston Rose, by Jenny Pattrick. Set in Denniston, New Zealand.
Europe: #1: Cold Granite, by Stuart MacBride. Set in Aberdeen, Scotland. #2 Silent in the Sanctuary, by Deanna Raybourn
North America (incl Central America): #1 Cat’s Eye, by Margaret Atwood. Set in Toronto, Canada.
South America
Try to find novels from twelve different countries or states.

This completes my European leg.

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The Iron Daughter – Julie Kagawa

I am officially hooked on these books! Picked this up at the local Library last night after requesting it and finished it today. After the conclusion of The Iron King, Meaghan was honouring her contract with the Winter Prince Ash and accompanying him back to the Neverneverland and the winter kingdom to be the prisoner of the Mab, the Winter Queen.

When this book opens, Meaghan has been a prisoner in Mab’s world for some time now. Mab, occupied with other things, shows little interest in her at present and Meaghan is free to wander around and do as she likes, so long as she doesn’t try to escape – it’s not like she could in these unforgiving frozen lands anyway. Abandoned by Ash, who she hasn’t seen since they arrived, Meaghan has no idea why she’s here or what’s happening. As the Winter Court prepares for the Echange, the handing over of a powerful sceptre from the Summer Court to the Winter, Meaghan is once again thrown straight into the midst of a deadly struggle for power.

***Warning: Spoilers for The Iron King***

After slaying the Iron King at the end of the previous novel, Meaghan thought that the threat from that corner was over but she is soon proved wrong. The minions follow a new King now and he has hatched a plan to get his hands on the sceptre and increase his power. By pulling off such a move, the new ruler knows that Winter and Summer will go to war and slaughter each other – and then the Iron Fey can sweep in and destroy whatever is left, thus securing themselves as the true rulers of the Neverneverland. Aided by some Winter Fey who have aligned with the new Iron King, a returning Ash and Meaghan are forced to flee the Winter Court and go on a deadly journey to retrieve the sceptre and clear their names.

It’s like the first novel, but not. There’s another journey and they need to recover something to save not just one life this time, but many lives. There are some similarities in that we are joined once again by Puck/Robin Goodfellow, the haughty cat Grimalkin and a former foe from The Iron King in the Ironhorse. There are new characters this time, some that aid and some that hinder and the action and pace is faster, more frantic and increasingly more violent.

The characters suck me in, all of them – Ash is icier, harsher and more tortured than ever and still I love him *insert some sort of teenage-girl like sigh here* and the internal struggle of loyalty to his court and Queen versus his ever-strengthening love for Meaghan is delicious to read. There were several scenes, so beautifully written where Kagawa excels at showing this struggle, laying bare all of Ash’s emotions even as he battles desperately against them, to play his hand as one of the Winter Court could. Meaghan’s refusal to take Ash’s rejection of her and her inability to forget him is heartbreaking at times and although I sometimes shuddered at how she could continue to pine after him even after the cruelty he deals her way, I had to admire the girl to keep trying! Puck throws his hat into the ring in this novel and our heroine wavers slightly but I’m hoping that the choice she made at the end of the book is the one that sticks for good.

I also loved Ironhorse. I didn’t pay him too much attention in The Iron King because he was sort of a baddie and also, he speaks in all caps, which kind of annoys me because it means when I read what he’s saying, I shout it in my head. And no matter how much I try not to, I just do. But in this novel he was definitely made of win and even though I kept shouting his words, it somehow became endearing, along with the quaint way in which he speaks. And oh god, I’ll be damned if I didn’t actually shed a tear in this book. I know, I know, what the heck, right? But I couldn’t help it.

Second books in a series can be tricky, especially if the first book was so highly praised. Sometimes they read as too much of a repeat of the first book, or the conflicts are a little too much and end up making you frustrated with the novel. And while the conflicts in this book are definitely a step up from the first in the series, I definitely didn’t find it too much. While Meaghan, Ash, Puck, Grimalkin and Ironhorse went on their journey to get the sceptre back, there were obstacles and challenges but it wasn’t like everything that cropped up was a negative and they also had some assistance along the way too. Meaghan and Ash’s personal conflicts helped emphasise just how unaccepted it is for a Winter fey and a Summer fey to fall in love and having been raised as a Winter prince, I could well understand Ash’s torn loyalties.

This book loses nothing and if anything I enjoyed this one more than I enjoyed the first. I’m very grateful that I have Book #3, The Iron Queen, sitting on my Kindle waiting for me, thanks to NetGalley. I can’t wait to dive into it – I thought it was to be the last book in the series, but I’ve just noticed that there looks to be a fourth novel – The Iron Knight coming sometime in probably late-2011.

9/10

Book #97 of my 100 Book Challenge

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Caribou Island – David Vann

I feel as though this book should almost come with some sort of warning. It should be a bible for everyone out there who thinks they want to go and build a cabin somewhere in isolation and live there. Because chances are, they don’t know what they’re doing, don’t really want to go and actually do that and….that’ll be the least of the things that can go wrong.

Gary and Irene have lived in Alaska for 30 years. Drifting there by accident, somehow staying. Gary is a restless sort, he has many grand plans and ideas but very few ever come to fruition, particular the fruition he dreams of. But his latest plan is sure to be different! He wants to leave their cottage and build a log cabin himself on an island accessible only by boat (and then only accessible in the warmer months of the year) and live there, permanently. No electricity, no running water, no telephone, no internet, no tv. Just man-vs-nature. And he’s dragging Irene along for the ride.

Irene is sure Gary is going to leave her, eventually and the prospect terrifies her. He’s been withdrawing from her slowly, pulling away. Their marriage is unravelling and Irene thinks this cabin will be the end of it. She’s gone along with Gary, supported him in everything and she even does so with this cabin but she doesn’t want to go and live on the island. She’s doing it because Gary wants to and because she still loves him. And wants to be with him.

Rhoda, Gary and Irene’s daughter is desperate to get married. She’s living with Jim, a reliable, financially independent dentist who is ten years her senior. Even though they’ve talked of marriage many times, Jim hasn’t yet popped the question. Rhoda doesn’t even know what Jim really wants – does he want to get married? Or did he just ask her to move with with him so that he has sex on tap and someone to run his errands? Is Rhoda so desperate to get married that she’s settling? And if Jim does propose, will that actually make her happy?

From the time I was 7, I wanted to be a writer. I wrote all the time, filling exercise books with stories. And when I was in high school I thought that living in some remote cabin in the wilds of Alaska (or other equally isolated location) would be amazing. No distractions! Just plenty of time to write and think. Even if I still had any dreams to do exactly that, this book would have well cured me of them! For starters, Gary just basically piles up a boat with logs, picks a random spot on the island, marks out what seems like an impossibly small outline (about 12ft by 6ft or something ridiculous) and starts basically sawing and hammering logs together. Gary is one of those permanently unsatisfied people who drifts through their lives, doing nothing with them and then blaming everyone else around for their lack of accomplishment. He was quite a loathsome character and the more bullheaded and stubborn and abusive he got about his disaster of a cabin, the more I wanted him to fall off his stupid makeshift roof and break his neck. Irene, on the other hand, as it seems to go with bullying men, was a doormat. She didn’t want to go out there and help build the cabin, or live in it and she plainly comes to a realisation that Gary has never loved her and just ended up with her because of his apathy and lack of drive and planning. Instead of growing a brain and a spine and getting back in the boat and leaving him and going home to their cabin with electricity and heating, she continues sleeping in a tent as the storms and snow come and spending days hammering and nailing and being bossed around by Gary. It’s a story of hopelessness all around and you can’t help but be dragged into the sombre mood.

The weather is the perfect backdrop for this sort of novel – the Alaskan weather seems to be famous. Its beauty and its isolation go hand in hand and because Gary is Gary and hasn’t planned this whole cabin thing, it’s the end of summer and there’s not much time left before the weather starts to go pear shaped. Among the screaming winds and driving rain, the choppy lake and the slushy roads are peaceful forests and lakes of glass. It makes me want to go and live in Alaska but in a definite spoiled princess kind of way – a cabin that looks rustic but is actually palatial – equipped with a power shower and functioning bathroom, fluffy carpets, ducted heating and a wood fireplace, cable TV and internet. I could admire all Alaska’s beauty from the warmth and comfort of my cabin! Of course this is not real Alaska, but if I wanted that experience I could very well end up like Irene. Or Gary. The author is a native of Alaska and it shows – his descriptions are vivid and flawless and real. His writing is solid and harsh – almost like diving into an Alaskan lake. It’s a spray with icy water, no holds barred, no beating around the bush. Flaws are exposed and lay open for criticism. Emotions are bared for all to see. The characters are all too believable, all too real – we’ve all known someone like Gary, someone who is so full steam ahead with their own ideas and importance that they don’t stop to consider practicalities and planning for one minute, so that they avoid crashing headlong into one disaster after the other. We’ve all known people like Irene, who are tired, exhausted, wavering but sticking with it, staying in a situation that makes them unhappy, because they love the person creating the situation. We all know someone like Rhoda, who is sure that she could just be happy, if only Jim would propose.

That might be the most depressing thing of all – because we all know people like these characters, with similar characteristics, you know there can’t be a happy ending.

7/10

Book #96 of my 100 Book Challenge

****I received this novel as an eGalley from the publisher in exchange for a review. Caribou Island will be published by HarperCollins on the 18th January 2011.

This book also satisfies some criteria for my What’s In A Name?3 Challenge! This one fits into criteria #1 – Read a book with a food in the title. Although I’m not sure if I’d eat caribou (reindeer! at this time of the year I’m not sure I could tuck into Rudolph) it is very popular in Scandinavian countries and areas like Alaska and Siberia.

Four lots of criteria satisfied. 2 to go – Read a book with a body of water in the title and read a book with a place name in the title

 

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The Iron King – Julie Kagawa

I didn’t study A Midsummer Night’s Dream in high school. Unfortunately, my school (and the statewide curriculum) was extremely set upon studying Shakespearean tragedies rather than his comedies, which seem infinitely more fun. After 2x of studying MacBeth and 1 each of Hamlet and Othello I had just about had enough and when I picked year 12 Advanced English, we at least got to do Twelfth Night even if that was balanced out by the headwreck that is Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, the other text. So when I picked up The Iron King on a whim, seeing it sitting on my library shelf, I went in not really knowing much about faerie-types. And if the MC hadn’t made the connection to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I wouldn’t have myself. That’s kind of bad, isn’t it?

Anyway. Meaghan Chase is just about to turn 16. Living out in the sticks with a technology-shunning stepfather, her mother and her younger half-brother Ethan, there’s not much in her life to write home about. She’s ignored or ridiculed at school and even her own family seems to forget she’s even there half the time, except for Ethan, who is scared of the man in his closet and thinks his stuffed rabbit can talk to him. Her only friend is Robbie, her next door neighbour (he lives 2 miles away) who looks out for her and plays practical jokes. Her father disappeared when she was very young and Meaghan gets the feeling that no one really has any time for her. Boy is that about to change.

After a couple of strange experiences, Meaghan comes home and finds her mother unconscious on the floor, 4yo Ethan standing over her. When Ethan isn’t acting his usual self, Robbie shows up and explains that he isn’t – he’s a changling. Someone has kidnapped the real Ethan. He then explains to Meaghan that he isn’t quite human either – and neither is she. Robbie is aka Robin Goodfellow (or Puck) and Meaghan is the daughter of Oberon, King of the Faeries. If Meaghan wants to get her brother back then they have to go to Neverneverland. Luckily though, Robbie/Puck happens to know the way! As they disappear through Ethan’s closet into Neverneverland, Meaghan is thrown into a potentially deadly war brewing between the summer and winter faeries and is frightened to learn that she’s a pawn that several powerful creatures want to exploit. All she wants to do is rescue her brother and return to her world, but it’s not going to be that easy.

I was surprised even though I’ve read some good reviews of this novel. What I think was the novel’s biggest strength was the descriptive writing. Everything just sprang to life from the page to a vision in my mind and I could see everything so clearly, especially the scenes that take place among the snow and ice. It was extremely warm here when I was reading this  novel but I still felt as though I could be trudging through a forest of ice. The lands and creatures came to life, especially the ‘pack rats’ and I think they might be my favourites.

I found Meaghan a likable protagonist – the idea of a teen struggling to fit in and be noticed by her crush, and even in this case, her family, is nothing very new, it’s been done countless times. But I found Meaghan an enjoyable narrator and her loyalty and devotion to her younger brother was very nice. There was nothing she wasn’t willing to risk to get him back, and she never gave up, even when it all seemed hopeless. She didn’t just take to her new heritage right away either, she struggled to deal with the idea that her father was not the man she had always thought he was, and that her real father was a faerie king. She wasn’t interested in anything that this could bring her and all she cared about was getting away from Oberon’s court and continuing her search for Ethan. She also doesn’t adapt easily to this new, more violent world. She continually brokers peace deals and even when she understands that killing a particular character is the only way out, she can’t help her reaction of sadness and revulsion. I found that an incredibly realistic response – even though she is half faerie and beginning to slowly come to terms with it, she retains her humanity and doesn’t just leap in and start slaying things left and right.

The secondary characters were an eclectic mix. I didn’t overly care for Robbie/Puck – found him a little too in-your-face larrikin for my tastes and the constant ‘princess’ endearment grated on my nerves. But I did appreciate his very understated devotion to Meaghan, which she doesn’t see at all, and I liked that the love triangle was extremely subtle – so subtle that Meaghan probably isn’t even aware that there is one. I did however, very much like Ash – the third participant in the triangle. I found the winter Prince to be the most interesting character of all – I can’t help it. I suppose I’m a sucker for the icy-male-with-a-tortured-past character. I think I’d read the future books for him alone, even if I didn’t like Meaghan herself. And the sidekick haughty cat, Grimalkin, who accompanies them on their journey to rescue Ethan, although he’s nothing new either, he’s still amusing and just enough. Any more and he could easily turn into something you could hate but Kagawa stops just before this line and keeps him fun and entertaining.

The pacing was spot on and although the tone was a bit…young…at times it was still a really enjoyable and addictive read. I already have the 2nd book requested from my local library which I will hopefully be able to pick up tonight. I can’t wait to get to it – The Iron King ended a bit abruptly and I can’t wait to find out what happens to Meaghan next.

8/10

Book #95 of my 100 Book Challenge

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Delirium – Lauren Oliver

In the world Lena is born into, in Portland sometime in the future, love is considered a disease. Amor deliria nervosa is considered an illness but thankfully for the citizens, there is a cure. And the cure is mandatory. Occuring sometime around the 18th birthday, each member of the controlled population undergoes a ‘procedure’ which isn’t ever described, but involves cutting into the brain. Lena is 17 and all she is preoccupied with is getting though her Evaluation, where the powers that be assess your interests, intelligence, etc and issue you 4 potential matches, which you then rank in order of preference. You are then issued your ‘pair’ or ‘match’ and that’s who you shall marry and spend your life with, after your procedures take place, or after college if the Evaluator’s decide you may attend.

On the day of Lena’s Evaluation, she has all the answers prepared but she’s tanking badly as things she shouldn’t be saying keep coming out her mouth. She doesn’t want to be like her mother, who couldn’t be ‘cured’ even after 3 procedures and ended up committing suicide, which brings shame and suspicion and derision. To escape the wishes of the powers that be, to be labelled a resistor or a sympathizer with the rebels that still live in the Wilds, outside the fences of the controlled, approved cities, is punishable by execution at worst or at best, confinement into the Crypt, the overrun prison. Lena doesn’t want to end up unstable like her mother, so she is stunned when she cannot prevent some answers of how she really thinks (which would not be Evaluator approved) coming out of her mouth.

Thankfully for Lena during her Evaluation, the rebels stage some sort of protest and in the confusion, all the Evaluations are re-scheduled. But not before Lena sees a boy up on the observation deck over her Evaluation room, laughing at the protest. She is fascinated by him and when she runs into him again and again, she cannot fight a growing teenage attraction, a desire to spend time with him and live her life before the procedure renders her ‘content’ and ‘blank’ forever.

Alex is not interested in being ‘safe’ or ‘content’ or ‘cured’. He comes from a different place and he knows things that Lena doesn’t. The two of them move sneakily around the town, snatching time together whenever they can, trying to make the most of what they have before Lena’s procedure. But time is running out and Alex has a solution.

I read Lauren Oliver’s first novel, Before I Fall and had mixed feelings about it so it was with a little bit of wariness that I started Delirium. The idea itself I think is a nice new twist on a dystopian society – blaming love for all the wars and crime that existed and seeking to eradicate love, and therefore, create a so-called happier, more content and even-tempered society. The thing that I found so infinitely disturbing about the world in Delirium is that the procedure doesn’t just ‘cure’ a person’s ability to love romantically, as in be in love with someone. It basically wipes out your capacity to love at all which means that after the procedure you won’t love your parents, your best friend since Kindergarten, your brothers/sisters, or even the children you later have. Now that was something terrifying and not like anything I’ve ever read before. Lena has only ever been told that she was loved by her mother, the mother that couldn’t be cured. Since her mothers death and her then growing up under the care of her cured aunt and uncle, she doesn’t hear that forbidden word again until Alex speaks it, reciting a poem (and she doesn’t know what poetry is either, it having been banned). The word itself is banned but also unnecessary in the society. There’s just no reason to utter it as people don’t feel love for anything – not their favourite foods, the beach, their chosen match, their children, nothing. That to me sounds like an absolutely vile and horrible way to live and as mentioned in the book, ‘how can you ever know if you’re truly happy, if you’re never unhappy as well?’

I liked this novel a lot more than Before I Fall. I enjoyed Lena as a character – her struggle to be ‘good’, to be raised ‘right’. Having been raised by a mother who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) be cured, for the first six or so years of her life, and then having to face the shame of having a mother that had committed suicide, have her name tainted, she is desperate to just have her procedure, go to college and make a good match and be content. It’s almost a desperation to redeem herself for her mother’s ‘sins’. No more emotions, no more up and down, life will just be good. But then she meets Alex, and even though he is like an eye opener for her, he really just helps reinforce what she seems to already know deep down inside. That maybe this isn’t the best way to live and that maybe, just maybe, the government hasn’t exactly been telling them the truth about everything And even as she thinks this, she is struggling to rid herself of the confusing feelings she has for Alex and even still then she has flashes of her ‘training’ (brainwashing) where she says that she almost wishes she never met him, or that she can’t wait for the procedure to smooth things out for her. It’s a wonderful and fully believeable internal struggle of a teenage girl who is doing the most natural thing in the world, falling in love,  but has been programmed to believe that love is just a disease, an illness that is undesirable and can and will be cured permanently.  But eventually Lena comes to realise fully just how horrible that it would be to live as almost a bot with no real feelings for anything or anyone.

I really enjoyed this book and the ending, although I expected it, still really upset me. I do think that actually, it was kind of the perfect ending for this novel, even though it is not the ending I really wanted! But I noticed earlier on Goodreads when I was preparing to write this review that this is the first of the Delirium trilogy and I’m really glad that they’re are going to be two more books. I definitely think that although it could’ve ended here and now, there’s still so much of Lena’s story left for us to find out. I cannot wait to learn more in the future books.

A thought-provoking, well written story. It’s the kind of book I think would be great for a book club, or even for a school related project because the discussion topics are numerous and so involved.

8/10

Book #94 of my 100 Book Challenge

This novel fits nicely into the YA Dystopian Challenge, hosted over at Bart’s Bookshelf by Darren. Darren has also reviewed Delirium for this challenge and you can check out his wonderful review here. This is the 7th novel I’ve completed for this challenge.

****I received this novel as an eGalley from the publisher in exchange for a review.

Delirium will be published on the 1st of February 2011 by HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollins.

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The Cypress House – Michael Koryta

Michael Koryta is an author who has been on my radar for a little while now after coming to my attention with his last release, So Cold The River which is now on my TBR list. Koryta is my age (28) and  his first novel was published when he was just 21. The Cypress House will be his seventh novel, which is quite an impressive achievement! When I saw this latest title listed on NetGalley, I snapped it up as I was very keen to get a look at his work and due to being on holidays, all I have with me to read are those novels on my Kindle.

The Cypress House opens on a train. Arlen Wagner, a verteran of the great War is dozing as the train makes its way towards Florida where he and a bunch of other men, all veterans and construction types bar one, are on their way to pick up more work on CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) projects down in that state. As the train passes over the border into northern Florida, Wagner notices that one of the man’s hand has turned to skeleton.

Wagner has a rare and strange gift in that he can see death before it touches. He may shun his gift, but he can’t ignore it. And when Wagner sees flesh fall away and leave just bone, and if he looks into eyes and sees nothing but whorls of grey smoke, he knows that person is not long for this world. Occasionally, if he has enough warning, he can change the circumstances and death can be escaped. That’s if he has an idea what might cause the death and enough time to avoid it. On this train, hurtling through Florida, he sees not just one man turn to skeleton and smoke, but all of them. Including the only non-veteran in their company, 19yo Paul Brickhill.

There’s only one explanation for that sort of mass death impending – the train is going to wreck. As the train slows to a stop to refuel and the men get out and stretch their legs, Wagner makes a decision. He tells everyone, when they’re off on the platform stretching their legs, that they can’t get back on. He can’t say why, he knows no one would believe him anyway, but he tries his hardest to convince all the men to stay off the train, get the next one. They ridicule him of course, tell him he’s had too much liquor, or he’s not right in the head. When the train pulls out of the station, only one man is left standing there with him: Paul Brickhill.

Wagner thinks they are safe. There isn’t another train until the next day and they are picked up walking their way to the local boarding house by the mysterious Walt Sorenson, a friendly type who promises to drive them down into the Keys or wherever they want to go, he just has to make a few stops first. It’s their last stop, at The Cypress House, where what looks like a lucky avoidance of death, turns into something far more sinister and complicated than just the possibility of their train de-railing.

The Cypress House is a very isolated boarding house run by the beautiful but distant Rebecca Cady, who Walt has stopped in to do business with. When Walt’s car blows skyward, presumably with Walt inside it, Arlen and Paul are sucked into this corrupt county of the Gulf. They are questioned, assaulted, threatened and treated suspiciously by the villainous sherriff and the even more villainous county judge. All is not as it seems here and as they are finally released back to The Cypress House and a hurricane sweeps in, it takes precisely that length of time for Paul Brickhill to decide he cannot leave Rebecca. When the raging wind and driving rain and rising seas finally retreat, he vows to stay on to help her do the repairs to The Cypress House and stay on forever, if only she will let him.

Fearing for Paul in this crooked and ominous feeling county, Wagner knows he cannot leave the boy here behind and he is resigned to staying on also. It could be the worst decision they make – already on the radar of the local Sherriff and judge, plus their hired help, it doesn’t take Wagner long to figure out that something very wrong is going on here. Rebecca is up to her neck in it, although seemingly unwillingly. Wagner is determined to find a way out, for all of them. Even if that means hurting at least one of them.

This was quite a read! I started it on the plane coming up here and it made the hour journey pass even quicker than normal! Right from the first line you are drawn in, the fate of the men on the train working its way into your mind and staying there. I thought the book might focus more on what happens to the men who refuse to get off the train, and maybe Wagner having to explain himself a little more but it takes you in an entirely new direction. We are taken to The Cypress House and Rebecca Cady and the evil that lurks there, which is described by more than one character in the novel as a ‘sickness’.

Slowly, little by little, we learn the hold that the judge has on this county, those who are in his employ and what they do and what they expect of Rebecca. This novel was driven by plot development, rather than character and we learn very little about the main characters, other than a few peices here and there that has helped shape them into the sort of adults they are. Emotions are few and far between and characters seem to deal with everything this novel throws at them with a kind of grim, blank determination. Despite this, I found Wagner extremely easy to like, and Brickhill also. Rebecca was less likable at first, and I never really came to love her as a character, or see what both Wagner and Brickhill saw in her, but then again, I’m not male. And maybe it takes a male to fully appreciate what Rebecca has!

Set during the depression era, I think the backdrop was almost my favourite part of the book. Where men worked for a month for $35 pay, where mothers at home collected half of their sons paycheques, where some counties are still considered ‘dry’ and bootlegging alcohol is still taking place. The physical setting, the Gulf down in Florida, was vivid and real – the hurricane that sweeps in when Wagner and Brickhill are released from the jail is a violent and devastating one, causing a death toll of six figures or more, with half the Keys and the location they were originally aiming for swept away almost to nothing. Then there are the descriptions of the heat, the swamps, the isolation of the boarding house itself. It felt like I was sitting there watching everything taking place in front of me.

Although the were a few slow spots in the middle of this book, the ending really makes up for it – suspense in spades and I was reading so quickly half the time I was fogetting that I was reading on my Kindle and I kept trying to turn pages, rather than press the button! I couldn’t see how I could possibly get the ending I wanted, the way things were going. If you like supernatural suspense, then definitely give this novel a try – it’s well worth it. Koryta has a great imagination and a great style of writing that is incredibly easy to devour and there’s so much more wound into the supernatural part.  I really cannot wait to read So Cold The River Now – it’s been bumped up to #1 for when I get back!

8/10

Book #93 of my 100 Book Challenge

This book also qualifies for my What’s In A Name3? Challenge this year. It’s been quite a while since I completed a book for this challenge but this one satisfies criteria # 4 – Read a book with a plant in the title. 3 criteria completed, 3 to go before December 31! Hope I can make it!

****I received this novel as an eGalley from the publisher in exchange for a review.

The Cypress House will be published on the 24th January 2011 by Little, Brown & Company – an imprint of the Hatchette Book Group

 

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No One Lives Twice – Julie Moffett

I wish I was a computer geek sometimes. I wish that when something happened to my computer, I could fix it effortlessly. And occasionally I’ve wished I could do even funkier things than that! So that’s kind of why I requested this book from NetGalley. It sounded like something I’d like to be involved in!

Lexi Carmichael is almost 25 and works for the NSA – the National Security Agency in Maryland. She’s a mathematical whiz and fairly proficient with computers and although all her work is classified, she’s not really involved in the top echelon of anti-terrorism. She’s a tall, gangly girl who doesn’t have much of a social life, much to the chagrin of her rich, attractive, former beauty pageant winning, socialite mother. Lexi is heading to her parents place for dinner one night to be set up yet again with some “eligible” sort when she is accosted by a large, burly man who demands to know where the papers are. Lexi, confused, has no idea what he’s talking about but the man doesn’t believe her and quickly wedges a gun into her ribs and says that she’d better reconsider and that he knows her best friend, Basia Kowalski, Fed-Ex’d the papers to her. Lexi swears she doesn’t have them and the gun-toting guy gives her a card and says that if they come into her possession, she better call him immediately.

After a very unsuccessful matchmaking dinner on her mother’s part, Lexi escapes back to her apartment where she is immediately grabbed by yet another gun-toting man, who also demands to know where the papers are. Once again Lexi has to swear that she doesn’t have them and doesn’t even know about them. This man, who is of Middle Easter appearance, writes a phone number down on her arm and says that if they do arrive, she better call him first, quick smart. Then he leaves and Lexi realises that her apartment has been completely trashed.

Not long later, her neighbour pops in to say that she signed for a Fed-Ex package for Lexi and gives it to her. It’s the papers – Basia has indeed sent them to her for safe keeping, but when Lexi opens the envelope she finds it’s all in Polish. Basia speaks fluent Polish (among other languages and works as a translator) but luckily, Lexi, through her work at the NSA, knows someone who she can take the papers to and he translates them for her. It’s a very unusual contract between two people, stating that one of them must live in a certain apartment, will receive the use of a car and monthly stipend, but must visit only a certain doctor and several other specific addresses. Other than a small penciled in note down the bottom, presumably by Basia, Lexi’s work colleague cannot see why these papers are so dangerous, other than as mentioned, the contract is not very standard.

Lexi takes the papers to the Zimmerman twins for them to scan onto their hard drive, just in case the gun toting men end up getting the better of her. The Zimmerman twins are brilliant hackers and technological security experts and Lexi is sure that if the papers are safe anywhere in the country, it would be on their hard drive. After all, they are responsible for the security of the computer of the President! The Zimmerman twins used to work at NSA before they were poached and apart from Basia, they are Lexi’s only friends.

With the help of the Zimmerman twins and NSA’s premier hacker/computer security expert who goes only by the handle of ‘Slash’, Lexi suddenly finds out that this Polish contract is tied into a large umbrella fertility company that seems to have branched out into some bizarre surrogacy experiments. That still does not explain the weirdness of the contract and when several other women who have taken part in the same so-called surrogacy arrangement turn up dead with bullet holes, Lexi realises that Basia, who has disappeared, is protecting the last girl left – a Polish one named Judyta and that was her contract that Basia was translating. Also a lawyer who works for the umbrella company has inserted himself into the picture and although Lexi would like to trust him, he does work for the enemy. And it seems that the enemy are doing some very nasty, very illegal things.

I read this book in a couple of hours while the bubba was down for his nap. It started out as a nice simple story about Lexi trying to find her best friend and figure out why everyone wanted the contracts but as you got further into it, it got more and more complicated and in depth. More and more players emerged and at times you were never quite sure who was telling the truth about themselves, who Lexi could really trust and who was a little more than they claimed to be. Although the book is about hackers and the brilliant things they can do, a lot of the details are glossed over and you never get bogged down too much in information and codes and commands. I enjoyed Lexi as a character – she was intelligent enough to put things together but she was also clueless enough to still get into some troubling situations. Her computer abilities are good but she needed a lot of help but given her place of employment it wasn’t implausible that she would know who to go to for the assistance she needed. I thought the Zimmerman twins, Xavier and Elvis were great and actually wished they appeared more! Slash was the one character that kind of bugged me but that’s because I don’t much like characters who are foreign-born and speak English but pepper their speak with random foreign words. Slash did this a lot and it was irritating. I don’t find it realistic either. My in-laws are Sicilian and speak excellent English and obviously, excellent Italian (Sicilian dialect). When I’m talking to them, they only ever speak English and thankfully, never make every fourth or fifth word the Italian one! That would get annoying. They do, when speaking to each other, slip into Italian, but if there is anyone nearby that only speaks English, they lay off it. They consider it rude to speak Italian in front of people who don’t speak the language and wouldn’t just assume that English speakers would understand inserted foreign words, or find it charming.

The ending of this book clearly gave the idea that it was going to be a series, and when I went to the author’s website, there was a section on the Lexi series and a bit about the main players and a bit of a blurb about the second book. Even though it was cheesy, I got into this book and came to like quite a few of the characters, so hopefully I can get the next installment.

No One Lives Twice is published by Carina Press, the Harlequin e-Publisher and is therefore only available as an e-Book currently.

7/10

Book #92 of my 100 Book Challenge

** I received this novel as an eGalley from the publisher in exchange for a review

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Soulless – Gail Carriger

Alexia Tarabotti is everything one shouldn’t be in Victorian England – she’s a mid-twenties spinster who is of half Italian extraction and therefore has undesirable tanned skin and an unfortunate nose. She’s also a very forthright and independent woman who speaks her mind and doesn’t bow to the strict rules of society or play the fainting maiden.

She’s also soulless, or a preternatural which in the terms of this universe, where vampires and werewolves exist in polite society, means that she is like a neutraliser of sorts. If she touches a vampire or werewolf, they are rendered to their human state immediately and for as long as they maintain physical contact. Her stepfather, silly rather vain mother and younger sisters are unaware of her soulless status, being more concerned with things like the latest pretty dresses and securing husbands. Alexia, who inherited her soullessness from her Italian father, is at a ball when she escapes to the library to order some tea and a few pastries due to the lack of nourishment on offer. She is rudely accosted by a vampire who tries to attack her. When he touches her, his fangs instantly retract and although she tells him that she is a preternatural it’s obvious he has no idea what that means and keeps attempting to attack her. She accidentally kills him with her trusty parasol, which brings the head of the BUR (Bureau of Unnatural Registry) onto the scene to attempt to figure out what has happened and why this particular vampire was breaking some well defined social rules and why he didn’t know what a preternatural was when all supernaturals are aware of her and her abilities and vampires are taught that in the Hive. It seems that the general belief is that being a vampire/werewolf comes from having too much soul and Alexia having no soul (hence soulless) is almost like a balancer.

Lord Conall Maccoon, head of the BUR and alpha werewolf of the Woolsey pack and Alexia are drawn into a mystery that  gets deeper and more complicated as they discover that new vampires are being created without the knowledge or permission of local Hives (vampires can only be created by Queens) and that lone werewolves, those not affiliated with any particular pack, are disappearing at alarming rates. There’s also a wax-faced man who is attempting to abduct Alexia for reasons unknown and Lord Conall puts her under the 24hr protection of the BUR. As Lord Maccoon and Alexia uncover a sinister plot that deals with eradicating the paranormals, they are also battling a strong attraction to one another. Lord Maccoon, although werewolf is quite an eligible bachelor and Alexia is of course, a spinster who has long been considered ‘on the shelf’.

This was a really surprising read. I’ve seen plenty of reviews around and actually, I’d always kind of held off reading this because it had seemed a bit too odd for me and a confusing mix of many genres and sub-genres. But the extra touches, the ‘oddness’ was what I came to love about it as I was reading. Paranormal is a bit of a tired genre at the moment, with all the gorgeous vampires and powerful werewolves and this series definitely deviates from the norm. Vampires are not possessed of dazzling good looks or incredible charm, nor do they appear to have a lot of the things often associated with them, such as the incredible strength, swift movement, etc. Werewolves need to be locked up on a full moon as they will attack anything as their instincts take over and even Lord Maccoon submits to the cell and shackles. I found the setting and the integration of the supernaturals into an Austen-esque society incredibly fun to read and the touch of steampunk added another element.

Alexia was a refreshing change as a female main character in a paranormal romance in that she was so confident and assertive and demanded to be kept in the loop and be told things but also didn’t run off alone and do careless and thoughtless things. She refused to be excluded by Lord Maccoon and was fearless in her pursuit of what was truly happening in their area. I enjoyed her bluntness and her frank self-appraisal. The fact that her tanned skin was so ridiculed was a hilarious poke at both the fashion of the time and the fashion now – where tans are worshiped and pale skin is considered unattractive and undesirable. I liked that Alexia wasn’t stunningly beautiful, or that she saw herself one way but everyone else saw her some other way. Her attributes (good figure) are talked up and her detractions (Italian nose & skin) are well discussed by many but they just happen to be features that Lord Maccoon finds interesting. He’s not much on social conventions and as he’s from Scotland (almost as undesirable as being half Italian) frequent mentions are made of his manners, or lack of them.

Gail Carriger has perfectly mixed snatches of real history in with her own inventions and delivered some very likable and refreshing main characters. The storyline and pacing were tight and the romance, while not the main focus of the novel, was a rather attractive bonus. This is the first of a series and  the next two books have already been released to more good reviews! I have to admit, I love a good series. With stand alone books I always find myself wondering what happens to the characters after the close of the novel. With a good series, I get to revisit much-loved characters again and again and I think this series could very well end up that way for me.

7/10

Book #91 of my 100 Book Challenge

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