Tag Archives: Book Review

666 Park Avenue by Gabriella Pierce

Title: 666 Park Avenue
Author: Gabriella Pierce
ISBN: 978-0061434778
Publisher: Avon Books
First Published: February 2011
No .of pages: 320

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
What if your mother-in-law turned out to be an evil, cold-blooded witch . . . literally?

Ever since fabulously wealthy Malcolm Doran walked into her life and swept her off her feet, fledgling architect Jane Boyle has been living a fairy tale. When he proposes with a stunning diamond to seal the deal, Jane can’t believe her incredible luck and decides to leave her Paris-based job to make a new start with Malcolm in New York.

But when Malcolm introduces Jane to the esteemed Doran clan, one of Manhattan’s most feared and revered families, Jane’s fairy tale takes a darker turn. Soon everything she thought she knew about the world – and herself – is upended. Now Jane must struggle with newfound magical abilities and the threat of those who will stop at nothing to get them.

Review:
If you like paranormal romances that aren’t too gushy and still have a bit of kick to them, then you’re going to love the first book in the new 666 Park Avenue series!

Seriously, I love paranormal stuff, but usually can’t stand the romance side of things, however this more than stands up to even the biggest haters of romantic fiction by having enough paranormal activity and believable characters to carry it off easily. Jane is a very likeable and flawed character; Malcolm is suitably suave and mysterious; and his mother is the perfect socialite matriarch. the settings are lush, the pace is fast, and the story is incredibly entertaining. Honestly, I had great difficulty putting it down and actually missed my bus stop because I couldn’t tear my eyes from the page!

I am now eagerly awaiting the publication of the sequel because I can hardly wait to see what the future holds for Jane!

DISCLOSURE: I was sent this book by the publisher for review purposes, but was not paid for the review.

Book Review – The Secret Life of William Shakespeare by Jude Morgan

Title: The Secret Life of William Shakespeare
Author: Jude Morgan
ISBN: 978-0755358236
Publisher: Headline Review
First Published: April 2012
No .of pages: 400

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
The greatest writer of them all, brought to glorious life. How well do you know the man you love? How much do you think you know about Shakespeare? What if they were one and the same? He is an ordinary man: unwilling craftsman, ambitious actor, resentful son, almost good-enough husband. And he is also a genius. The story of how a glove-maker from Warwickshire became the greatest writer of them all is vaguely known to most of us, but it would take an exceptional modern novelist to bring him to life. And now at last Jude Morgan, acclaimed author of Passion and The Taste of Sorrow, has taken Shakespeare’s life, and created a masterpiece.

Review:
I’m a big ol’ fan of Shakespeare’s many beautiful works, so when this novel exploring his early life and his start in the world of theatres and writing, I was over the moon!

Living up to the most famous writer in the world was always going to be a tall order, but Jude Morgan takes up the challenge with great aplomb and does a sterling job of showcasing The Bard’s works while presenting him as a real and very believable character in his own story  – a fallible man striking out in the world on his own, trying to support a wife and family from a great distance whilst living out his dream

This is a beautifully written exploration into the not-so-glamourous world of Elizabethan theatre, where fickle audiences and the whim of Queen Elizabeth could make or break a play, or even a writer’s whole career.

If you’re a fan of Shakespeare, theatre, or Elizabethan historical fiction, give this one a try, and be transported to another time and place, where a young man struggles to prove his words are art and find his place in history.

DISCLOSURE: I was sent this book by the publisher for review purposes, but was not paid for the review.

Book Review – Insurrection by Robyn Young

Title: Insurrection (Insurrection Trilogy Book 1)
Author: Robyn Young
ISBN: 978-0-340-96366-1
Publisher: Hodder
First Published: October 2010
No .of pages: 672

Rating: 2/5

Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
The year is 1286 and Scotland is in the grip of one of the worst winters in living memory. Some believe the Day of Judgement has come. The King of Scotland is murdered by one of his squires, a deed pre-meditated by his own brother-in-law, the King of England, a thousand miles away in France. The Prophecy of Merlin has decreed that only when the four relics of Britain have been gathered will one man rule a united kingdom, and Edward I is determined to fulfil it. The murder of Scotland’s king is thus just the first in a chain of events that will alter the face of Britain forever. But all is not destined to go Edward’s way. Out of the ashes of war, through blood feuds and divided loyalties, a young squire will rise to defy England’s greatest king. His name is Robert the Bruce. And his story begins in INSURRECTION.

Review:

I adore historical fiction, so I jumped at the chance to read something set in Scotland and covering an exciting period in its history – Scotland’s political wranglings with the English date back centuries and are fraught with battles, both of words and combat. I was champing at the bit to get started and waded in.

I was right about the setting being spectacular and the story intense, but the realisation of it was pretty dry in places and such slow going I felt like I was wading through sticky Scottish porridge, trying to get to the end. Unusually for me, this book took an absolute age to finish and when I did finally get to the end, I felt like my brain had been stuffed full of stodge.

All this is not to say it’s a bad book – there are some really thrilling battle scenes and some fascinating glimpses of the life of Robert the Bruce as he slowly rose in position, both in Scotland and England, but there’s a lot to get through in between that slows the pace considerably, and at close to 700 pages, this felt even lengthier.

Recommended only for big fans of Scottish history who enjoy wrestling with hefty novels. There’s some really good stuff in there, but you have to persevere to find it.

March 2012 Book Round Up

I didn’t have as much time for reading this month, but I did manage to finish a few books and, unfortunately, had to abandon one too…

KEY:
K = Kindle e-book
R = Reviewed for publisher or author
Like a Star @ heaven Dire – don’t waste your time
Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven OK, but nothing to write home about
Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven Very good – worth a read
Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven Excellent
Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven Superb – read it immediately!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

BOOKS FINISHED IN MARCH:
23. Charles Dickens – Great Expectations (K) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
I enjoyed the earlier parts of this novel, but as time went on I found myself less and less engaged in the plot and characters. I no longer cared about Miss Havesham; I couldn’t understand why Pip still pined for cold, aloof Estella; and I wasn’t bothered by Pip distancing himself from his old friends and family. Before reading this, I knew the basics of the story, but there’s a lot here that always gets cut in adaptations, and I can see why as a lot of it was, to be perfectly frank, very dull. The humour I found in the first half of the book gave way to the doldrums and I felt like I was wading through the second half of the book like wearing lead boots in a lake of treacle. It felt like it took forever and by the time I neared the end of it, I was wishing it would hurry up and reach a conclusion. So, overall, I was rather disappointed by this, but I will not let it put me off trying more Dickens…

24. Terry Pratchett – Snuff Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
I was so excited about this novel as it’s a Vimes book and his are always my favourites. Till now. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy it, but nowhere near as much as the others and therefore not as much as I had hoped and expected. I don’t know what it was about it exactly, but it just didn’t have the same flow as usual – perhaps it’s the switch Pratchett has had to make from typing to dictating. It’s good, but others have been better. Vimes is still Vimes, but I feel he’s mellowing a bit with age and fatherhood, and the rest of the watch were barely mentioned – there were a few bit-parts and one-liners for a couple of the usual crew, but they were mostly left out and Vimes took the helm, so to speak. Usually, this would be a fine thing indeed, but on this occasion, I felt it lacked a little sparkle.

I’m still looking forward to the publication of The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter in June though!

25. Georgette Heyer – Regency Buck Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
This was my first experience of Heyer’s work and I was pleasantly surprised! A colleague loaned me this novel and I semi-reluctantly took it home to read, then found myself sucked in by Heyer’s witty humour and sumptuous settings as well as the intriguing plot. I’ll admit I fell for several red herrings and double red herrings, which is unusual for me, but it made for a fun read and I didn’t at all resent being taken in. I’ll certainly try other novels by this author. In particular, I’m interested in reading The Reluctant Widow, as Stephen Fry has listed it as one of his favourite novels and, well, the man is never wrong!

26. Thomas Hoover – Caribbee (K) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
If you like swash-buckling adventures with a basis in historical fact, then this is the one for you! The characters are, in the main, conglomerates of real people and the tumultuous period in American and British history (with the dark roots of the slave trade) is fascinating. Hoover has a flair for the dramatic and the sweeping events of this novel are so exciting that I was on the edge of my seat the entire time.

27. Steven Scaffardi – The Drought (R) Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven
Reviewed at the request of the author. Please see the full review HERE.

BOOKS STARTED BUT CARRYING OVER TO  APRIL:

  • Robyn Young – Insurrection (Insurrection Trilogy 1) (R)

BOOKS STARTED BUT ABANDONED:
Lew Wallace – Ben-Hur (K)
This was the March choice for Kindle Klub, but sadly I just couldn’t get into it at all. It felt like I was reading a novelisation of The New Testament, and not a particularly exciting one, so I had to put it aside. It was particularly embarrassing because I had nominated it in the first place!

PRIORITY FOR APRIL:

  • Jude Morgan – The Secret Life of William Shakespeare (R)
  • Mark Stevens – Broadmoor Revealed: Victorian Crime and the Lunatic Assylum (K / Kindle Klub)
  • Gladiator: Fight For Freedom by Simon Scarrow (from library)
  • Ultraviolet by R J Anderson (from library)
  • The Body at the Tower (The Agency 2) by Y S Lee (from library)

Monday Memes

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

Hosted by Sheila at One Person’s Journey through a World of Books.

KEY:
E– E-book Challenge
G – 2012 Genre Challenge
BFF – Bookie Friends’ Favourites Challenge
BL – Bucket List Challenge
S – Off The Shelf Challenge
AZ – A-Z Challenge
C – Classics Challenge
R – Review for author or publisher
K – Reading for Kindle Klub Book Group

Robyn Young – Insurrection (R)
I’ll be reviewing the sequel when it comes out too! Looking forward to them both immensely. I’ve only just started this one and it’s over 600 pages to it, but it looks great! I adore historical fiction, and one set in Scotland is an added bonus, because that’s where I live!

~***~

Cover Crazy

Jane Austen – Emma
Anna Sewell – Black Beauty
Frances Hodgson Burnett – The Secret Garden
All from the Penguin Threads collection

What I love:
The very fact that the covers are stitched (well, the original design was anyway) speaks to both my stitchy side and my bibliophilic leanings. They are such beautifully crafted covers that anyone would love to have them in their collection.

~***~

Musing Mondays


Hosted by Should Be Reading

Have you ever found a book out of the blue, read it, and then had it be surprisingly good — one that stuck with you for years?
If so, what book was it?

Yes! For me it was The Stand by Stephen King. I’ve mentioned this book countless times before as it’s one of my all-time favourites, so I won’t rave about it again in case I bore you all rigid! I’d never even heard of it and I’d only ever read Carrie by King (and love it), so when I came across this massive chunk of a book at over 1000 pages in hardback, I thought, “Well, let’s give it a try, shall we?”

Two days later I emerged from that book with my mind blown!

I remember very well it was the Saturday morning I came across it, bought it, and started reading it. I finished it late on the Sunday afternoon. I was fortunate I had done my homework on the Friday night, or I would have been in a heap of trouble on Monday!

I must have read it at least a dozen times since then and it always has the same effect on me. I love it completely!

Friday Finds


What great books did you hear about / discover this past week? Share with us your
FRIDAY FINDS!

By following links to blogs taking part in various memes, I’ve heard about so many great books it would be impossible to list them all. I’m also a regular visitor to our local library and am always eagerly awaiting newly published books by my favourite authors. However, here are the ones that really stood out for me this week and for which I’ll be looking out on future book acquisition expeditions:

They’ve both gone onto my wish list!

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesdays are hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading.To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

* What are you currently reading?
* What did you recently finish reading?
* What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?
Thomas Hoover – Caribbee (E)

I’m about 3/4s of the way through this and I’m enjoying it immensely.

Georgette Heyer – Regency Buck
Borrowed from a colleague. So far, so good.

What did you recently finish reading?
Nothing – but I did abandon Ben Hur by Lew Wallace because it was boring me rigid. It’s a real shame because a) it was for discussion in Kindle Klub, and b) I nominated it, so I feel rather guilty at having suggested a total duffer. At least one other member has also found it impossible to get on with this one.

What do you think you’ll read next?
Robyn Young – Insurrection
The publishers have sent me this one to review and I’ll be getting the sequel around the time of its publication in August this year. It looks like it will be right up my street, so I’m looking forward to getting to it as soon as possible!


Tuesday Memes

Teaser Tuesday
Halfhead by Stuart B MacBride

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read
2. Open to a random page
3. Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
4. 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!)
5. Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser:

There’s blood everywhere.

It sparkles in the artificial light like diamonds scattered onto dark red velvet. It fills the air with the scent of burning copper and hot rust, tugging at her belly. It soaks through her jump-suit, making the cheap fabric cling to her gaunt body like a second skin.

- page 1, Halfhead by Stuart B MacBride

Synopsis:
Glasgow, not too far in the future. A new punishment has been devised for the perpetrators of serious crimes — one that not only reduces the prison population but also benefits society at large. The process is known as halfheading: the offender’s lower jaw is removed and they are lobotomized. They are then put to work as cleaners in municipal areas like hospitals, where they serve as a warning to all that crime doesn’t pay. But for one halfhead, it seems the lobotomy hasn’t quite succeeded. Six years after her surgery, Dr Fiona Westfield ‘wakes up’ surrounded by the butchered remains of a man she has just brutally killed. As her mind slowly begins to return, she sets out on a quest for vengeance. William Hunter, Assistant Section Director of the ‘Network’ — a military wing of the police — attends the crime scene left behind by the newly awakened halfhead. Sherman House is a run-down concrete housing development full of undesirables and Hunter and his team quickly find themselves in a firefight with the locals. With the help of old comrades and a new friend in the form of prickly but attractive Detective Sergeant Josephine Cameron, Will gets on the trail of the killer. But before long the investigation leads back to a terrible tragedy in his own past, as well as to a terrifying conspiracy to sow violence and misery among Glasgow’s most vulnerable citizens.

What I think of it so far:
I actually read this quite a while ago, but it pretty much jumped off my shelf at me today and I thought I’d give you the opening paragraph. It’s a slightly futuristic crime thriller written with the same pitch-black gallows humour that MacBride shows in his Logan McRae series. If you’re not usually a fan of sci-fi, this can be a nice ease-in from the crime side of things.

Top Ten Tuesday
Top Ten Books On My Spring To-Be-Read List

For various reasons, from being given books to review to getting books out of the library, to books I have waiting on my shelf to be cracked open, here are the top ten books I’ll be reading this spring:

  1. Insurrection by Robyn Young (for review)
  2. Gladiator: Fight For Freedom by Simon Scarrow (from library)
  3. Ultraviolet by R J Anderson (from library)
  4. The Body at the Tower (The Agency 2) by Y S Lee (from library)
  5. Huntress by Malinda Lo (from Xmas)
  6. Praetorian (Romans #11) by Simon Scarrow (from Xmas)
  7. A Game of Thrones (Song of Ice and Fire 1) by George R R Martin
  8. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
  9. North By Northwest by Ernest Lehman
  10. The Transformation by Catherine Chidgey

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


 

Monday Memes

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

Hosted by Sheila at One Person’s Journey through a World of Books.

KEY:
E– E-book Challenge
G – 2012 Genre Challenge
BFF – Bookie Friends’ Favourites Challenge
BL – Bucket List Challenge
S – Off The Shelf Challenge
AZ – A-Z Challenge
C – Classics Challenge
R – Review for author or publisher
K – Reading for Kindle Klub Book Group

Thomas Hoover – Caribbee (E)
I’m about 3/4s of the way through this and I’m enjoying it immensely.

Georgette Heyer – Regency Buck
Borrowed this from a colleague – so far, so good.

~***~

Cover Crazy

Around the World in 80 Days
From the Earth to the Moon
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Journey to the Centre of the Earth
- All by Jules Verne

What I love:
What’s not to love about these gorgeous covers? Looking at them, you get a real feel for the contents of Verne’s wonderful tales, and the vintage look of them speaks of the time in which they were written. Truly, these classic novels deserve such stunning covers. Everything from the colours to the composition, to the style of cover art and typeface just screams class and is just so beautiful to look at I could cry right now because I do not have these versions on my bookshelves. I shall have to remedy that situation as soon as possible!

~***~

Musing Mondays


Hosted by Should Be Reading

Would you choose to review a book if its description sounded interesting but the cover was terrible?

Short answer – yes. I’ve reviewed hundreds of books over the years and some of them had truly dreadful covers. Some of the contents matched the awful cover art (“art” being a very kind description in some cases!), but others have been wonderful.

Even looking at the books in my permanent collection – the earlier Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett have, in my opinion, hideous covers – ugly, bulbous characters sprawling across the cover bearing little-to-no resemblance to the characters on the pages, with garish colours to add to the offence. However, the contents of those books are wonderful – some of my favourite books of all time come from that very series. If I had let myself be put off by the covers, I would have missed out on so much enjoyment.

In general, a pretty, unusual or striking cover will tempt me to pick up a book and at least read the blurb to see if it might appeal to me, but sometimes the ugly ducklings turn out to be swans too.

Friday Finds

What great books did you hear about / discover this past week? Share with us your FRIDAY FINDS!

By following links to blogs taking part in various memes, I’ve heard about so many great books it would be impossible to list them all. I’m also a regular visitor to our local library and am always eagerly awaiting newly published books by my favourite authors. However, here are the ones that really stood out for me this week and for which I’ll be looking out on future book acquisition expeditions:

They’ve all gone onto my wish list!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.