Monday, 28 February 2011

Book Review: Frederica by Georgette Heyer

This is the fourth book I have read by Georgette Heyer and the first book in my Georgette Heyer Challenge 2011 (click on the link to find out more about it.)

Amazon synopsis:

Rich, handsome, darling of the ton, the hope of ambitious mothers and despair of his sisters, the Marquis of Alverstoke sees no reason to put himself out for anyone. Until a distant connection, ignorant of his selfishness, applies to him for help. Plunged into one drama after another by the large and irrepressible Merriville family, Alverstoke is surprised to find himself far from bored. The lovely Charis may be as hen-witted as she is beautiful but Jessamy is an interesting boy, and Felix an engaging scamp. And, most intriguing of all, their strong-minded sister Frederica, who seems more concerned with her family's welfare than his own distinguished attentions ...

My review:

Miss Frederica Merriville will do anything to ensure her younger sister Charis is able to have a London season so whilst she is in London, she takes it upon herself to visit a distant relation, the Marquis of Alverstoke to ask him to sponsor Charis into society, for she insists to him that it is a crime to let such a beauty languish away in the countryside. Amused by Frederica and glad of a chance to spite his pestering sisters, he agrees, not quite knowing what he has undertaken.

Frederica is a very strong female character who is quite different than the other of Heyer's heroines I've read about. She is very determined that her beautiful sister Charis will have a perfect London season so she has the opportunity to make an eligible match whilst she pushes her own prospects away from consideration as she believes she is 'on the shelf' in her mid twenties. To go and appeal to a distant 'cousin' that she has never met before shows that she is a confident, determined and strong willed character who really wants to give her younger siblings the very best chance in life that she can. She is no perfect character though and some of her downfalls are shown in her blindness with her dealings of her younger siblings occasionally.

Vernon, the Marquis of Alverstoke is a thirty seven year old 'creme of the ton' bachelor who is completely against marriage although he is the hope of every match making mother. He is as well known in society for his elegant dress as his lazy attitude because he never makes an effort to lift so much as a finger for anyone, least of all his sisters. This is shown at the beginning of the book, when he takes pleasure in the frustrations of his sister when he refuses to hold a ball at his house for the introduction of his niece to the ton on her season debut. He developed a lot throughout the book as he gets to know the Merriville family better throughout the book and learns to be willing to put himself out for others for the first time in his life, much to the surprise of society. However he is not one of those characters that goes from seemingly detestable to loving because I could see glimpses of the honourable man that was hiding inside him, for example in the respectful and friendly way he treats his secretary. One of my favourite things about his character was his dry wit and humorous banter with Frederica and it was great to see his feelings for her slowly developing.

I really loved reading about the antics of Frederica's younger brothers Jessamy and Felix and it turned out that their interactions with Vernon turned out to be some of my favourite parts of the book. I couldn't help but fall for the with the Merriville family because they are such a bubbly and loving brood with the best of intentions. Harry is the eldest of the family and the head now that their parents have died and a lot of responsibility fell on his shoulders at a young age. He doesn't really come into the book until late on because is is studying at Oxford. Jessamy is the eldest boy at home and often troubles himself considering moral issues and behaving older than his time and often tries to prove his worth as a young man instead of  boy, resulting in hairy and embarrassing scrapes. Charis is the renowned beauty of the family who makes men fall for her left and right with her looks and sweet manners but is too tender hearted to discourage any of her unsuitable suitors. Despite her appearance, she is very feather brained and I found that she was outshined by her siblings. Twelve year old Felix is a mischievous yet intelligent little rascal causing worry and threats in his schemes yet so good natured and earnest that no one could help but like him. I felt that he was very three dimensional too and I liked his obsession with steam engines and hydraulics. It was amusing to see the way he softened Lord Alverstoke's heart and wrapped himself around his little finger where no one else could succeed - so cute!

Although the book is set during the London season, the plot doesn't just revolve around society parties and balls so I enjoyed seeing another aspect to life in Regency London and getting an insight into family life there. There was also some fantastic detail about the sights of London and new- fangled inventions such as hot air balloons. The Regency language is also very much present and my regency slang vocabulary increased a lot but it isn't cumbersome to the story or stuffy at all.
The only thing I would say is a small downfall is that it occasionally becomes too drawn out and some parts could be cut out to keep it from becoming too long unnecessarily.

Verdict: Frederica is a playful and adventurous historical romance filled with engaging characters, mischievous antics and humorously romantic conversations that put a smile on my face. It is my second favourite Heyer novel I've read yet and I would recommend it to all fans of the genre. If you're an Austen fan, then Heyer's books should be at the top of your TBR list.

Rating: 4 stars

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Coverlicious: Beauitful Cover Dresses# #3 The Red Queen's Daughter and The Sweet Disorder by Jaqueline Kosolov

Coverlicious is a feature that I post here sporadically featuring everything to do with covers from lookalikes to reveals and covers I love and cover wars.

This post is part of a series called Beautiful Cover Dresses, featuring gorgeous dresses on covers that I love! Today's picks are:

 Goodreads synopsis: Sixteen-year old Miranda has no idea how much her life is going to change upon hearing the news of her father's death. Left with little dowry to offer, Miranda faces a broken engagement, and is sent to live with her father's cousin, the Count John Hardwood, and his wife whose primary goal is to take her to Court and marry her off to the insufferable Lord Seagrave for their own profit.
At Queen Elizabeth's court, Miranda soon learns that a large part of her survival will depend on her knowing who to trust. All the maidens at Court dream of being one of the Queen's ladies in waiting. When Miranda distinguishes herself from the rest with her exquisite sewing and embroidery skills, she gets the attention of the Queen, much to the anger and jealousy of the courtiers, ladies in waiting, and even a trusted "friend."But how will she reunite with Henry Raleigh, the man to whom she was once promised, and has always loved?

On this cover, you get a full view of the dress, which is nice because often parts are cut off on covers and you don't get to admire it as much. Normally, I don't like subdued and dismal blacks and greys on book covers because they don't stand out but it does work quite well in this example because the rich reds and gold colours of the dress are highlighted and accentuated, drawing your attention to the most prominent feature, the girl's face. The adjusted lighting on the top half of her body also helps with this. I think that the colours in the dress really complement each other and it is beautiful without being bedecked with lots of jewels, fancy flounces or heavy jewellery. I also like the way that the girl is wearing a pearl necklace because it softens the look and represents innocence.

Goodreads synopsis: Orphaned as a young girl because of the imprudent marriage of her mother, Queen Katherine Parr, Mary Seymour vows never to fall in love-and under no circumstances will she marry. Lady Strange, her mysterious guardian, offers the young woman an extraordinary alternative to marriage: Mary is to become a white magician who will join Queen Elizabeth's court and ensure the success of the Virgin Queen's reign.
Accompanied by her magical hound, Perseus, Mary sets out to learn the properties of different stones and the art and precision of natural spells. Soon after her sixteenth birthday, she joins Elizabeth's court as a lady-in-waiting. Upon her arrival, Mary realizes that Elizabeth's court is rife with men and women who are vying for power. The most dangerous of all is Edmund Seymour, Mary's disturbingly handsome cousin. From the moment she meets Edmund, Mary has to fight her growing attraction, especially once she discovers that he is a black magician, the dark mirror of her own self. But, despite the threat Edmund poses to Mary, he seems to be the only one who truly understands her. When Edmund becomes involved in a plot against the Queen, Mary finds her beliefs tested in ways she never could have imagined.

This cover has the same sort of theme as The Sweet Disorder with the dark background and girl in the corner but this time we only get to see half of the dress. I've actually had this one sitting on my bookshelf unread for a while now.  Seeing the cover up close, and in fact in the photo as well, the details of the dress are lovely as the different intricate lace patterns are very clear against the soft creamy and peachy hue of the dress. However, I think that this cover could have done with bolder colour to help it stand out more, perhaps with the gold title made brighter and more embossed. The other version of this cover does this well with the red and I like the way the girl is facing ahead rather than looking down demurely because it makes her look definant and strong. However, the drawback is that the dress can't be seen.
What do you think of these covers?

Previous beauitful cover dresses posts you may like:

P.S I mentioned this in my Teaser Tuesday post yesterday but incase you missed it, I'm off to Yorkshire for a few days on holiday with my family so I won't have anything posted until Sunday (I don't like scheduling posts very much!) I hope to get lots of reading done whilst I'm away too :)

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Teaser Tuesday: The Mermaid's Mirror by L.K Madigan

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along and have fun! Just do the following:
  •  Grab your current read and open to a random page
  • Share (preferably 2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! 
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) 
I just started reading The Mermaid's Mirror by L.K Madigan this morning so I thought I'd share the first paragraph of the prologue with you, seen as the description is lovely:
'Lena woke up on the beach. She knew she should feel afraid- sleepwalking to the beach in the middle of the night could not be a sane thing t do- but the salt scent and the roar of the ocean calmed her. The moon shone down on the waves, making them glitter like thousands of tiny lights flickering just beneath the surface, rolling over and over.'

Currently, I'm on page 78, which is at the end of chapter 12 and I'm going to be taking it on holiday to Yorkshire with me tomorrow. I'm looking forward to the mermaid part of the book as it has just been introduced. So far, so good- I've been waiting forever to read this one!
I love the cover because of the glowing blue title against the backdrop of the story sea and the way that the girl's swept hair is swept back casually but gracefully. Also, the hazy magical glow around her and the pearl like drops of water over her hair are nice features.

Talking of me being on holiday, I'm going on a short break away with my family so I won't be back in the blogopsphere until Sunday. It's not long but I just thought I'd let you know anyway :)

Author Interview with Mary Hooper (face to face)

At the beginning of this month, I was very lucky to be able to meet Mary Hooper for the second time at her visit to my school. She is one of my favourite authors and although I wasn't allowed to take time out of my lessons to listen to her talk to the younger years as I did last year, I did get the opportunityy to get her latest book, Fallen Grace signed and interview her in person. Very exciting! To interview her, I stayed behind with a friend to watch her officially open my school's new library extension so the questions are a mix between mine and hers. Interviewing face to face (with a recording) was a fantastic experience because it was like a chat and Mary is a lovely person. So without further ado, I am very happy to be able to introduce Mary with the answers to our questions here today!

Note: I do have some photos from the event but they have other people from school in them so I can't post them for privacy reasons.

Interviewer: What is your favourite thing about writing YA historical fiction?

Mary: All the things I find out along the way.

Interviewer: What time period do you most enjoy writing about?

Mary: Ooh, I’d say 17th century.

Interviewer: How do you research your books to get your descriptions accurate to create a period feeling?

Mary: It’s a long answer isn’t it? Well, library first, and then the Internet, personal visits to places, talking to people, all sorts of bits, reading old newspapers from the time, that sort of thing. 

I never actually noticed
the skull in her eye

Interviewer: What’s your favourite cover out of all of your books?

Mary: Ooh, I think probably At the Sign of the Sugared Plum, I like the skull.

Interviewer: Yeah, I like that one too but all of yours are wonderful.

Mary: It’s good, isn’t it?!

Interviewer: I have The Fever and the Flame [At the Sign of the Sugared Plum and Petals in the Ashes] edition.

Mary: Oh have you?

Interviewer: Who is your favourite real life historical character and who would you most like to meet?

Mary: Oh, Charles Dickens [Featured in Fallen Grace] definitely.

Interviewer: I thought it might be him.

Mary: Mind you, I quite like the idea of Nell Gwyn {featured in Petals in the Ashes] as well; I think she might have been fun.

Interviewer: Is there a story behind Velvet’s [main character in Mary Hooper’s new book, Velvet] name because I remember on Facebook you were asking for ideas.

Mary: Yes. No, I just looked at a list of Victorian girls names and got it off the list, I just loved it, and my editor loved it and we decided she could be the title of the book and it was such a nice name.

Interviewer: Yeah, I like it to.

Can you tell us any more about Velvet (featured in Velvet]?

Mary: Only that, she goes to work for, first of all she’s working for a spleen laundry and she then goes to work for a medium, who’s crooked, but Velvet doesn’t know that.

Interviewer: How would you feel if Fallen Grace was shortlisted for the Carnegie medal this year?

Mary: I’d love it to be shortlisted, I’d love it.

Interviewer: Have you got any ideas for your next book yet?

Mary: Yes, I think it’s going to be, I think it might be 18th century, which I haven’t tried before, and I think it’s going to feature the Hulks, I think I mentioned this on my Facebook page. The Hulks were prison ships on the Thames, they kept a sort of overflow of prisoners, especially before they sent them to colonise Australia, you know, that was one of the punishments in prison, that they would deport them, that was a valid punishment. I think that that will only be part of it but it should be interesting.

Interviewer: Which of your characters would you most like to meet, including the ones from your contemporary books as well?

Mary: I’d probably like to meet Grace [Fallen Grace]. She’s a very enterprising girl.

Interviewer: What got you started in writing?

Mary: What got me started? Writing short stories, which are a very good way for anyone to start, because it gives you good practice at writing. Yeah, short stories. And I did lots and lots of short stories and sold them and then moved onto doing serials. And you know, once you’ve done a serial for a magazine it’s almost like the same length as a book.

Interviewer: Where is your favourite place to write?

Mary: Just in my spare room. Surrounded by bits, bits and pieces, and pictures, all sorts of things I collect.

Interviewer: Have you any tips for budding writers?

Mary: Oh, tips for budding writers. I always say the best thing is to read as much as you possibly can because it’s quite rare for anyone of your age to be able to write a whole book. Na also you haven’t got the experience of life, whereas, you know, when you’ve been around as long as I have, you have. So, you know, while you’re waiting to be old enough to write I think, read, read, read.

Interviewer: What types of books do you like to read in your spare time?

Mary: I tend to read historical books, factual and fiction, anything historical really.

Interviewer: Are any of your family interested in books?

Mary: Any of my family? Well my children. My son’s just written a book and that’s the only connection I think. He’s much more science fiction, his book is science based, much more learned than mine.

Interviewer: Who is your favourite author?

Mary: It changes, you know, it changes all the time according to who I’m reading, it’s usually Charles Dickens, a good cover-all.

Interviewer: What were your favourite childhood books?

Mary: I really used to like, and still do, Just William books, have you ever read them? They’re excellent.

Interviewer: Is there another particular person or author who’s inspired you in your writing at all?

Mary: No, not really. Just a case of seeing if you can do it, you know, if you want to do something it’s always worth having a try because, you know, so what if you fail. So yeah, always try.

Thank you very much for doing the interview, Mary, I really enjoyed it! I really like the sound of the ideas for the book you are working on next as I love the eighteenth century.

If you haven't read any of her books before, I really recommend that you look them up because she is one of my favourite authors and introduced me to historical fiction, which is why I love it so much today. I reviewed her latest book, Fallen Grace, which has just been released in the US back in July on this blog so you could start with that as I loved it. Her new book, Velvet,  is being published by Bloomsbury in the UK in September this year (I can't wait!) but the cover has not yet been revealed. Here's the synopsis:

Velvet is a laundress in a Victorian steam laundry. With both her mother and father dead, she is an orphan and has to rely upon her own wits to make a living. The laundry is scalding, back-breaking work and Velvet is desperate to create a better life for herself. Then Velvet is noticed by Madame Savoya, a famed medium, who asks Velvet to come to work for her. Velvet is dazzled at first by the young yet beautifully dressed and bejewelled Madame. But soon Velvet realises that Madame Savoya is not all that she says she is, and Velvet's very life is in danger ...A romantic and thrillingly exciting new novel from an acclaimed and much-loved historical writer for teens

Doesn't it sound fantastic- the Victorian era, an orphan and romance? Yes please :)

Above- Signed copy of Fallen Grace and two pretty Mary Hooper bookmarks

A Cornocupia of Dystopia event!

During March and April, the lovely Casey from The Bookish Type and Danya from A Tapestry Of Words are holding an awesome dystopian blogging event that I am taking part in- very exciting! Thank you so much to Danya and Casey for all the hard work they have put into organising the event.

There will be author interviews, reviews, guest posts, cover-redesign contests and giveaways.It will feature lots of the dystopian books that many bloggers are eagerly anticipating or have already been released including:

I will be reviewing Delirium and welcoming authors Megan Mcafferty and Katie Kcvinsky for a guest post here :D

Here's the current schedule:


21 – A Tapestry of Words Dark Parties Review & Interview, The Bookish Type Memento Nora Review & Interview

22 – I Swim For Oceans Awaken Review & Interview, The Book Worms XVI Review & Interview

23 – A Writer’s Review Bumped Review, Musings of a YA Reader Memento Nora Review & Interview

24 – Books in the Spotlight Delirium Review, Supernatural Snark Possession Review, Reading Teen Wither Review

25 – Down the Rabbit Hole Bumped Review & Interview, Supernatural Snark Possession Interview

26 – Musings of a YA Reader Awaken Interview, A Writer’s Review Dark Parties Review, Books in the Spotlight Dark Parties Review

27 – Midnight Bloom Reads Awaken Review, The Bookish Type Delirium Review, BSAOT XVI Interview

28 – I Swim For Oceans Bumped Review & Interview, Midnight Bloom Reads Awaken Interview

29 – Supernatural Snark Memento Nora Review & Interview, Reading Teen Possession review & Interview

30 – 365 Days of Reading Bumped Review & Interview, The Bookish Type XVI Interview & Review

31 – Loud Words and Sounds Awaken Review & Interview, Good Choice Reading Dark Parties Review & Guest Post


1 – Reading Teen Bumped Review & Interview, The Book Worms Memento Nora Review, Literary Explorations Wither Review

2 – Musings of a YA Reader Possession Review & Guest Post, Books are a Girl’s Best Friend Delirium Review, Books in the Spotlight Awaken Review

3 – Books in the Spotlight Awaken Interview, Down the Rabbit Hole XVI Review & Interview, 365 Days of Reading Memento Nora Review
4 – The Bookish Type Dark Parties Review & Interview, 365 Days of Reading Memento Nora Interview

5 – Books are a Girl’s Best Friend Awaken Guest Post, A Tapestry of Words Awaken Review, Literary Explorations Possession Review

6 – Loud Words and Sounds Bumped Review & Interview, Reading Teen Delirium Review, Musings of a YA Reader XVI Review

7 – Books in the Spotlight Dark Parties Interview, Supernatural Snark Awaken Review, A Tapestry of Words Possession Review

8 – The Book Worms Bumped Review, Midnight Bloom Reads Delirium Review, Supernatural Snark Awaken Interview, A Tapestry of Words Possession Interview

9 – The Book Worms Bumped Interview, Literary Explorations Memento Nora Review, 365 Days of Reading XVI Interview

10 – A Writer’s Review Awaken Interview, The Book Worms Possession Guest Post, The Bookish Type Possession Review

11 – Reading Teen XVI Review & Interview, The Bookish Type Possession Interview

12 – The Bookish Type Awaken Review & Interview, Books in the Spotlight Memento Nora Review, Literary Explorations Bumped Review

13 – Supernatural Snark Bumped Review, A Writer’s Review Possession Review, Books in the Spotlight Memento Nora Interview

14 – Reading Teen Awaken Review & Interview, 365 Days of Reading Dark Parties

15 – A Tapestry of Words Memento Nora Review & Interview, 365 Days of Reading Dark Parties Interview

16 – The Bookish Type Bumped Review, Books in the Spotlight Possession review, Supernatural Snark XVI Interview

17 – The Bookish Type Bumped Interview, Literary Explorations Delirium Review, Books in the Spotlight Bumped Review

18 – Delirium Scavenger Hunt Interview

So make sure to keep your eyes peeled for these posts across the 17 participating blogs, which can be found at A Tapestry Of Words or The Bookish Type and share in the fun! Also, a giveaway schedule will be announced soon by Casey and Danya.

Monday, 21 February 2011

ARC Review: In The Shadow Of The Lamp by Susanne Dunlap

Goodreads description

It's 1854 and sixteen-year-old Molly would give anything to change her circumstances as a lowly servant in a posh London house. So when she hears of an opportunity to join the nurses who will be traveling with Florence Nightingale to the Crimea, she jumps at the chance. The work is grueling, the hospital conditions deplorable, and Miss Nightingale a demanding teacher. Before long, the plight of British soldiers becomes more than just a mission of mercy as Molly finds that she's falling in love with both a dashing young doctor and a soldier who has joined the army to be near her. But with the battle raging ever nearer, can Molly keep the two men she cares for from harm? A love story to savor, and a fascinating behind-the-scenes imagining of the woman who became known as "the lady with the lamp."

My review

 Sixteen year old Molly Fraser doesn't know what to do when she is sacked from her job as parlour maid in when she is accused of committing a crime she did not do because London in 1864 isn't kind to young girls without work. Ready to do anything to keep from working in the awful conditions of a factory, she grabs the opportunity of going to the Crimea as a nurse with Florence Nightingale when nurses are being recruited. The only problem is, she is dismissed for being too young and inexperienced so Molly must use her wits to sneak onto the ship without being noticed and try to prove her worth.

Molly is a high spirited and determined heroine with a very kind heart and I really admired and loved her character for this. She also had flaws and I felt her thoughts and actions were very genuine, which made her realistic. Dunlap portrayed her feelings well through the distinctive voice of her character and I felt like I was growing closer to her over the course of the book. She is the kind of girl I would love to have as a best friend and her story was very original.

 I liked how there was a romance integrated into the story too. Whilst I know that many people are finding love-triangles in YA very cliche and overused now, this one was a little different and very realistic because it was easy to see what a difficult position Molly was in as her heart was pulled between two men. It is very plausible to find yourself in this position if the two men are in different countries and the rule of nurses not being able to fraternise with doctors made it all the more exciting for her. At seventeen, she has never experienced love before and her confused feelings were very believable and I liked the way she felt guilty about not making a decision because she didn't want to hurt anyone. Each of the two men were extremely likable in their own way. Will, her friend from back home was very kind, caring, earnest and very much honestly in love because he had sacrificed and risked so much for her in her time of need and Doctor McLean was very handsome, merry and always able to make Molly laugh in a way that makes her heart beat faster. I was happy with who she ended up with in the end though.

Dunlap's descriptive and atmospheric writing set the scene for the war very well and whilst I was reading about Molly's time in the hospital, it felt like I was living there too. Everything is described just as it would have been, from the terrible injuries of the men to the appalling unsanitary conditions without being too gory. The setting of the Crimean war is one that I haven't come across yet in YA historical fiction and was a refreshing change from books in the genre that are set in Tudor and Victorian England or Colonial America. Although not a lot of the details are known, I thought that Dunlap weaved fact with fiction seamlessly to provide scenarios and events that are easy to imagine actually happening at the time whilst keeping to real dates and actual people. I also really liked how the story worked around Florence Nightingale as the famous 'lady in the lam' that everyone knows about became more real in my mind rather than just lines in a textbook through seeing her through the eyes of one of her young nurses. Her character was serious but very strong willed and she was a young lady who knew her own mind very well and seemed to be a born leader.

Verdict: I was swept away with adventure, sorrow, romance and fear on Molly's journey and I absolutely loved it. I couldn't put this book down as it was so compellingly addictive and I took it everywhere with me as I wanted to read it at every spare moment I had. It is one of my favourite YA historicals I've read (and it's my favourite genre!)I'm now really looking forward to reading my copy of Anastasia's Secret and getting immersed in whatever Susanne Dunlap writes next.I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical romance without hesitation and especially those who are taking part in the YA historical fiction challenge- pre-order it!
Rating: 5 stars and it made my top 5 books of 2010 when I read it in Decemeber (Yes, my first review using a rating system gets the highest!)
In The Shadow Of The Lamp is due to be released on April 12th 2011 in the US.

Thank you to the author, Susanne Dunlap, for holding the wonderful competition to win an ARC that I won back in December.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

In My Mailbox 20/2/11

In My Mailbox is a fabulous meme held by the lovely Kristy at The Story Siren, where bloggers share the new books they have this week whether through the post, hand bought or from the library.

Here's what I got this week (both books bought):

The Queen's Lady by Eve Edwards

1584 – Surrey, England When Lady Jane Rievaulx begins service to the Queen at Richmond Palace, she is thrilled at the court’s newest arrival . . . Master James Lacey. Despite her previous courtship with his older brother, James is the man she truly loves. And for his part, he cannot deny his fascination with her. However, James is setting sail on a treacherous journey to the Americas, seeking absolution for what he sees as past sins. But when Lady Jane is forced into a terrible situation by her own family, there is only one man to save her. Will Master James return to his lady ­- before it’s too late?

I've been anxiously waiting for the release of this one (February 3rd)  since I read  the first book in the Lacey series, The Other Countess last year and absolutely loved it and it made my top 5 books of 2010. Actually, it's one of my favourites ever. I had so much of things I love in a book: the Tudor Court, lavish balls, handsome earl, sweet romance, gorgeous period dresses..... So I was very excited to get it from Waterstones bookstore with my voucher! I'm currently reading it at the moment.

Sigrun's Secret by Marie Louise Jensen

"Their garments are black as night. They carry torches in their hands, darkness and anger in their hearts. They are coming.'
When a dark family secret is exposed, Sigrun's peaceful life is shattered. Forced to pay for her parents' misdeeds, she finds herself exiled from all she knows - and from the boy she loves - for three long years. Yet more secrets lie ahead; not least the power Sigrun finds awakening in herself, seemingly passed to her from a mysterious amulet. Can she use her new-found gift to save herself and those around her from the dangers they face? And will true love wait until her return?

Sigrun's Secret is the sequel to Daughter Of Fire and Ice which I also read and really enjoyed last year. This time, it's the story of the protagonist's daughter Sigrun and I can't wait to start reading it. It was released in January of this year by Oxford Press. I'm probably going to take it with me when I go on holiday for a couple of days next week.

What did you get in your mailbox?

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Trial Rating System

A few weeks ago, I posted about my thoughts on rating systems and asked your opinion on whether I should integrate one here on my reviews. Thank you so much to everyone who left a comment, they were all really helpful and thoughtful. The majority of people seemed to find rating systems helpful because it gave a definite impression of a person's overall opinion and the results of the poll showed that most of the voters would like a rating system here because only 2 out of 15 voters said they wouldn't.

So, I've decided to a trial rating system here until the end of March to see how it goes. To get over the problem of different genres, I'm going to rate mainly on enjoyment so if I couldn't get into a book even though the writing was good, then the rating will be lower. I love all the pretty graphics that people use for rating systems but until I decide whether I will use a rating system permanently here, I'll just to keep to just writing the number of stars. If I do continue to use it, I will probably also create a page to explain the ratings more in depth.

Here's what I've got outlined for each rating:

1 stars-  I really didn't like this book and it wasn't worth my time.
2 stars- Overall, this book wasn't for me but I probably liked small parts of it.
3 stars- I liked this book and it was worth a read but there were a few things that affected my enjoyment. You may want to get it from the library before you buy it.
4 stars- I really enjoyed this one and would definitely recommend it but it was missing that extra spark.

5 stars- Everything about this book was amazing and I absolutely loved it- go and buy it now!

There will also be half ratings to give me more leeway in deciding because I don't want all my ratings to end up really high.

I'm very interested to see how this trial goes and I hope the ratings will be useful to you!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Book Review: The Legacy by Gemma Malley

Goodreads summary

When a Pincent Pharma lorry is ambushed by the Underground, its contents come as a huge surprise - not drugs, but corpses in a horrible state. It appears Longevity isn't working and the drugs promising eternal youth are failing to live up to their promises. A virus is sweeping the country, killing in its wake, and Longevity is powerless to fight it. When Richard Pincent of Pincent Pharma suggest that the Underground has released the virus, something has to be done to put the story straight and once and for all alert everyone to the truth.

My thoughts and review

Background to the series: It is set in a futuristic world where drugs have been developed where no one dies, gets ill, meaning that they can live forever. Ideal and perfect, right? The only catch is, for those who agree to take the drug and sign the Declaration, they can't ever have children because the world would be over-populated. The first two books focus on what happens to the children who are born illegally.

I really enjoyed the first two books in the series, The Declaration and The Resistance so I was very excited to see this come in at my school library and I reserved it straight away. The first series was the first dystopian I read and I really enjoyed it and the concept of a world where everyone can live forever. I hoped that I wouldn't be disappointed with the last installment about the world that I've come to know in the previous books so I was glad to find it wasn't a complete let down.

The Legacy is filled with bucket loads of action, suspense and lots of twists that really kept me on my toes. There was a major twist at the end and I really was shocked by it as I wasn't expecting it at all and usually I'm quite good at guessing what's going to happen next. Most of the plot is focused on what happens when nature starts to take over and the future of Longevity- the very drug that people depend on to keep alive- is thrown into confusion. People everywhere have to decide their judgements on circulating rumours and start questioning their existence and the world that they live in. All these philosophical questions that are raised got me thinking and one of the reasons why this series seems so realistic is because Malley's world seems almost plausible if medical technology keeps improving at its current rate. Although I certainly hope this won't happen by the time we reach 2140 after reading this series!

Despite the fast pace that often compromises the character development in some books, the main characters Peter, Anna and Sheila stay true to themselves as they were in previous books and rise to the challenges and anxieties that are placed before them with courage and bravery even though they are not at the forefront of the action or included as much. I liked how they were loyal to the cause they were fighting for whatever the costs and consequences that it might lead to for them and the ones they love. In The Legacy, secondary characters that were given more of a back-seat in the other books became more of the focus for example, Peter's half-brother Jude became one of the main narrators of the book and I got to know him much more of a person.

The story was told through multiple narrations, one chapter is narrated by one of the main characters and the next you find yourself in the head of a normal person who is being affected by the events for a few pages. Whilst I liked how this gave me a wider perception on the world and what is happening outside of the Underground, it sometimes felt a bit jumpy and disjointed so I was left feeling a little confused at times and found it harder to really get into the story, especially when reading it for short intervals.

One aspect that I would have liked to see more of is Peter and Anna's relationship because it almost felt as though they (especially Anna) were sidelined from the main action and didn't get very much page time when they were the original main characters.

Verdict: The combination of a brilliant plot and well rounded and developed characters is what makes this series finale so dramatic as well as thought provoking. I was left satisfied with the ending too but I did have some issues with parts of the book that affected my enjoyment slightly. Despite this I think that fans of the series should not be afraid to pick The Legacy up in case of disappointment and for I really recommend this series for anyone who likes dystopian novels but has yet to discover this trilogy!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Dark Mirror by M.J Putney

Thanks to Betwitched Bookworms for the cute button!

Waiting on Wednesday is a fantastic meme held at Breaking The Spine where bloggers share books that are not yet released that they are eagerly waiting on!

I haven't participated in WOW for a long time so I'm excited to be posting it again :)

This week's pick is:

Dark Mirror (Dark Passage, #1)

Goodreads description

Lady Victoria Mansfield, youngest daughter of the Earl and Countess of Fairmount, is destined for a charmed life. Soon she will be presented during the London season, where she can choose a mate worthy of her status. Yet Tory has a shameful secret—a secret so powerful that, if exposed, it could strip her of her position and disgrace her family forever. Tory’s blood is tainted…by magic. When a shocking accident forces Tory to demonstrate her despised skill, the secret she’s fought so hard to hide is revealed for all to see. She is immediately exiled to Lackland Abbey, a reform school for young men and women in her position. There she will learn to suppress her deplorable talents and maybe, if she’s one of the lucky ones, be able to return to society.

But Tory’s life is about to change forever. All that she’s ever known or considered important will be challenged. What lies ahead is only the beginning of a strange and wonderful journey into a world where destiny and magic come together, where true love and friendship find her, and where courage and strength of
character are the only things that determine a young girl’s worth.

I was first attracted to this one because of the beautiful cover but I love the premise too. After all, it is YA historical fiction! I have been meaning to read more historical magic books too and if the description is anything to go by this one sounds like a good one to start with. I especially like the sound of the London Season being included as I'm a fan of Regency set books that feature the Season prominently a lot. The cover is just so gorgeous, the mix of colours with the dark background and the golden figure in the mirror just goes so well together and really piqued my interest the first time I saw it. The US release date is 1st March so not long to wait!

What are you waiting on?

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Coverlicious: Cover Wars- Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

Coverlicious is a feature that I hold here sporadically (it doesn't have a set day or date in the month) where I feature anything and everything to do with covers from covers I *love* and cover reveals to lookalike covers and cover stories. If you like this post, you may also enjoy previous Coverlicious posts.

Hardback: This one is more symbolic of the book because it shows Curzon in his soldier's gear and reperesents the setting of the Valley Forge and the time he served as a private there (although he is wearing far more clothing than he had access too as a soldier!). I like the way the smoke from his rifle displays the title and this continues on from the hardback Chains cover, where the title was designed to look like chains on Isobel's wrists. The drawing is nice and I think the simpleness of it is effective and the stance of Curzon is intended to make it powerful.Don't get me wrong, I do like the coverl but it just doesn't capture my atteniton in the same way, it's almost like a collector's edition of a classic for me.

Paerback: This one is my personal favourite just because it looks a lot more appealing and pretty to me and I think it would appeal more to other teenagers too. The aqua and red colours go well togther, the photo background still tells of the snowy conditions in Valley forge and I like the fact Isobel is the one the cover because it fits in with the other paperback edition. The way her face is hidden is also effective because it might make readers want to pick up the book to find out what she is thinking and why. She also stands out against the background. Another feature that I love is the small caption as it works really well and fits in with the book.

I'd love to hear what you think in the comments- do you prefer the hardback or the paperback?

If you would like to find out more about the series, you can read my reviews of Chains and Forge by clicking on the links.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Book Review: Thyme's End by B.R Collins

I really like the cover design, it's very striking and
the gates are rather imposing and spooky looking!
Goodreads description

Bibi feels out of place everywhere - everywhere that is, except for Tyme's End, the deserted house that she breaks into when she thinks nobody is nearby. There she unexpectedly meets Oliver Gardner, the owner of the house, who's just returned after ten years away. Their story and the story of Oliver's grandfather becomes inextricably entwined, linked as they are by Tyme's End itself. For Tyme's End is more than just a deserted house. It is a house that by turns can be romantic, beguiling, sinister and malevolent. It is a house that had a cruel and manipulative owner. And anybody who enters Tyme's End must prepare themselves for terror ...Part mystery, part psychological thriller, set in the present yet with forays into the past, this is a cleverly ambitious novel that makes for a compulsive and gripping read.

My review and thoughts

I started this book with hesitation because I didn't really know what to expect as I'd never read this type of book before. At the beginning, we meet Bibi, an adopted teenager who feels that she doesn't belong in her family or in England. She often goes to the dilapidated old mansion called Thyme's End near her home when she wants to escape from troubles at home because she feels accepted and safe there. It was owned by the much acclaimed author of The Owl Of The Desert, H.J Martin but no one has seen the current owner for 10 years.
Bibi came across to be very bratty girl who doesn't appreciate what she has and I found it very hard to like her at first. However, I found her easier to like after she is discovered in Thyme's End by the twenty seven- year old owner, Oliver who is finally visiting from America. Over one day special day spent together,they develop a friendship and find that they have a unique understanding of each other and their feelings. The day that they spent together was lovely because although they only knew each other for a short time, I felt their relationship was believable as the bonding process was slowly built up. I would have liked to see more of their relationship because I love a bit of romance but I understand that would have undermined the impact of the book.

The next part of the book jumps back in time to when Oliver was ten years younger in 1996 and some of the mysteries about the house that were raised by Bibi were unravelled. We also learn the reasons behind Oliver's troubled feelings and problems in the first part, which helped me to understand and get to know his character a lot more. There was a lot of suspense in this part because an element of ghost stories slips in but it didn't capture my imagination although I can't place my finger on why because it was very well written. My favourite part of this section was learning about the history of the house.

The final part of the novel is set in 1936 and is told through the eyes of Oliver's Grandfather also by the same name), who we met in part 2 as an older man. I don't want to give too much away about it but it explores the relationship between Oliver and the author H.J Martin, who is known by him as Jack and reveals the true nature of who he was.

I thought that the idea of telling the novel in three parts was really clever and interesting and at the end, I briefly looked back through the first section with fresh eyes when I knew the truth about Thyme's End and saw the trail of hints left by the author. Another thing that I thought particularly effective was the way that the house was used as a kind of 'prop' or 'symbol' in the plot because it means something different to each characters.Without the house, there would be no story!

Verdict: It's not at all that this book was bad, because it truly wasn't- but I couldn't immerse myself in the characters and story so I didn't  particularly enjoy it. However, I think that those who like Gothic types of books might like it because I believe that if you can really get into it, the atmosphere would be very spine chilling and tense. If you like the sound of it, you may want to check out a more favourable review of it at The Bookette.

I read this book for the Out of Your Comfort Zone Challenge hosted by Danya at A Tapestry Of Words because as I mentioned before, I've never read any Gothic thriller type books previously. Despite the fact that I didn't particularly like it, trying the genre was a very helpful experience. I also read it for the British Books Challenge 2011 hosted by The Bookette.

Thank you to Bloomsbury UK for sending me a review copy of this book.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

In My Mailbox 13/2/11

In My Mailbox is a wonderful meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren that encourages bloggers to share with each other the new books they got this week whether through the post, hand bought or from the library.

Here's what I got:

An ARC of Matched by Allie Condie won from Jess Hearts Books 18th Birthday celebration giveaway.

I actually received it last week but I didn't do an IMM then.I really enjoyed Matched when I read it at Christmas so I'm really excited to have my own copy. Thank you so much to Jess for holding this amazing giveaway, being so generous and also for the lovely Need Pixies series bookmark she included in the parcel.

Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin (thank you to Bloomsbury UK for providing me with a review copy.)

This one cheered me up to get through the post when I was ill and I promptly snuggled up with it in bed as it looked like a cute read even though it's not something I might usually pick up. I finished it pretty quickly and a review will be up on the UK release date, March 1st. It was basically what I expected it to be: fun but predictable. It served it's purpose of a light read that I didn't have to think much about to enjoy though,

Here's the blurb:

Jenna and Jonah are teen celebrities whose on-screen romance is followed by millions on a hit TV show. But it's there off screen love life that has made them really famous. There's just one problem- they can't stand each other. When the paparazzi blow their cover, Jenna and Jonah have to disappear to weather the media storm. Once off the Hollywood circuit, will they discover that there is more to each other than shiny hair and a winning smile?

I'm waiting for one book that I ordered just after Christmas with a book voucher I was gifted, which got sent back the first time because it was creased when they ordered it into store and I'm just about to spend some of my Amazon voucher too so I should have more new books over the next couple of weeks

Also, sorry that I haven't had as many posts up this week. I've been ill and had to rely on content I'd already drafted. When I've caught up with school work I've missed in a few days, everything should be back to normal.

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Book Review: Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

Please note: There are some spoilers for Chains for Laurie Halse Anderson in this review if you have not read it yet.

Goodreads Summary

In this compelling sequel to Chains, a National Book Award Finalist and winner of the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson shifts perspective from Isabel to Curzon and brings to the page the tale of what it takes for runaway slaves to forge their own paths in a world of obstacles—and in the midst of the American Revolution.
The Patriot Army was shaped and strengthened by the desperate circumstances of the Valley Forge winter. This is where Curzon the boy becomes Curzon the young man. In addition to the hardships of soldiering, he lives with the fear of discovery, for he is an escaped slave passing for free. And then there is Isabel, who is also at Valley Forge—against her will. She and Curzon have to sort out the tangled threads of their friendship while figuring out what stands between the two of them and true freedom.

My thoughts and review

I loved reading the first book in the Seeds of America series, Chains so I had been looking forward to the UK release of Forge for a long time. I loved Isobel's determined character that was prepared to challenge the way her life was as a slave in New York and had the courage to run away with her friend Curzon. In Forge, there is a change in narrator to Curzon and although I missed the book being told from Isobel's point of view, I did warm to Curzon's voice too as I liked him in Chains.

At the beginning of the book we find Curzon on his own as Isobel has run away from him to find her little sister Ruth and he suddenly finds himself entangled with the patriots and forced to sign up as a private in the Continental army if he is to hide his true identity as a runaway slave who has been promised his freedom but has no documents to prove it.

This brings complications in itself for a harsh and relentless winter is about to set in and no one is prepared for what lies ahead. Laurie Halse Anderson describes vividly the bitterly cold conditions the 12,000 soldiers had to endure in Valley Forge with no barracks and no continuous supply of food. I enjoyed learning about the different types of foods that they ate to stay alive like  firecake (a burnt flour and water mix that tasted of ashes.) Despite this, the men always try to find some humour to lighten the situation and their attempts were very laughable. 
Through this ordeal Curzon can't stop himself thinking of Isobel and wondering if he will ever see her again as well as trying to sort out his feelings for her. Whilst I enjoyed all the description about the hardships of army life and Curzon's worries about how Isobel was faring, I felt that it dragged on for far too long (nearly half the book) and I felt like I was waiting for something to happen although I did like the twist at the end of it because I didn't see it coming.

The second half of the book and the ending is much more thrilling and had more of the spirit, adventure and excitement that I loved in Chains coupled with another cliffhanger. That is why Forge lives up to the 'historical thriller' label that Laurie Halse Anderson gives her historical fiction books to make them more appealing to children and teenagers. 

The joys and complications of human life is what I think makes Chains and Forge so accessible because Laurie Hale Anderson has created complex and easy to relate to characters who are not afraid to fight for what they believe in. I have grown to love them so that I really care about what happens to them and that is always a sign of fantastic writing.

It is clear that all the details about the Revolution have been carefully researched and it pays off because of the authenticity of it. A small touch that I also liked was the snippet from a letter or document about the army at the beginning of the chapter because it added to the atmosphere of the book.

Verdict: Whilst Forge didn't captivate me as much as Chains, I still really enjoyed it and found the historical side very interesting. I can't wait for the third installment of Isabel and Curzon's story, Ashes!

Looking for more about Isabel and Curzon's story? You may like my review of Chains.