Thursday, 26 November 2015

Review: Menagerie - Rachel Vincent

From New York Times bestselling author Rachel Vincent comes a richly imagined, provocative new series set in the dark mythology of the Menagerie…

When Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger's Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus black-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah in her black swan burlesque costume is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she's forced to "perform" in town after town.

But there is breathtaking beauty behind the seamy and grotesque reality of the carnival. Gallagher, her handler, is as kind as he is cryptic and strong. The other "attractions"—mermaids, minotaurs, gryphons and kelpies—are strange, yes, but they share a bond forged by the brutal realities of captivity. And as Delilah struggles for her freedom, and for her fellow menagerie, she'll discover a strength and a purpose she never knew existed.

Renowned author Rachel Vincent weaves an intoxicating blend of carnival magic and startling humanity in this intricately woven and powerful tale.

Menagerie Series:
Masquerade (2016)

For more information visit Rachel Vincent's website

Menagerie is set in a world similar to our own but one where all kinds of supernatural creatures, known collectively as cryptids, exist and are walking among us. Since humans found out the truth about these creatures they have been treated as less than animals, they have no rights, are unable to hold down jobs or own property and don't even have a say in what happens to their bodies or their children. Cryptids who are discovered are placed in the custody of the state, they can be bought or sold and if they're "lucky" they'll end up in a menagerie where people can pay to come and gawk at them through the bars of their cages. Unlucky ones will find themselves hunted & murdered for sport or used for all kinds of horrific experiments and testing.

Metzger's Menagerie is a travelling circus where all of the performers and attractions are cryptids. It travels around America and people pay exorbitant ticket prices to come in and see the "freaks" on display. Delilah visited the Menagerie as a child but now, 15 years later, it has come back to their area and her boyfriend bought tickets for her as a gift. She was kind of curious about the Menagerie and wondered if she would see any of the same cryptids from her childhood but she finds herself horrified by the way the cryptids are treated by their handlers and the Menagerie staff. When she steps in to defend a young werewolf child she discovers something about herself that gets her into more trouble than she ever could have imagined.

I've been a huge fan of Rachel Vincent's for a long time now and I'm consistently impressed with the new and interesting ideas she comes up with for every new series. Menagerie is like none of her previous books, it's much darker in tone and is actually more than a little disturbing in places. This isn't a comfortable read but it was a fascinating one and I was hooked from the very beginning. Delilah was a fantastic main character, one day she's just a normal girl having fun with her friends and then her entire life is turned completely upside down. She is stripped of everything she has ever cared about and becomes less than a second class citizen within a few terrifying moments. It was horrible seeing what she was going through but I admired her for her strength and courage, she is treated as an object to be ridiculed and laughed at but she never loses her humanity. The story actually raises a lot of interesting questions about what it means to be human and it really makes you think about the way we treat people who are different from ourselves. One of my favourite quotes from the story was:

"But if monsters could look like humans, and humans could look like monsters, how could anyone ever really be sure that the right people stood on the outside of all those cages?"

We meet a whole host of interesting characters in this book, Delilah may be central to the story but she's only one of the major players and nothing is quite what it seems. All of the characters are fully three dimensional, they all have secrets and hidden motives and you can never be quite sure who you can trust. Every time you think you have things figured out Rachel Vincent manages to add in a new twist and I gave up trying to predict what would happen next. I loved the pure scope of this world, the sheer amount of different cryptids, each with very different skills and needs, was fascinating. There are characters you'll love, some you'll hate but more than a few who fall into such a grey area that you won't know which box to put them in. The plot unfolds masterfully and I loved the way things played out towards the end of the story, I don't want to say much about what happens but it has definitely left me desperate to get my hands on the sequel and I'm very excited to see where this series will go from here.

Source: Received from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Other Reviews:
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Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Review: Star Trek Pop-Ups - Courtney Watson McCarthy

A legendary sci-fi epic as you’ve never seen it before―including the Klingon Bird of Prey, the Bride of Chaotica, and the Enterprise herself, all literally bursting off the page

Star Trek is one of the most enduring franchises in Hollywood entertainment history. Part of the public consciousness since 1966, it spans the worlds of television and the movies and counts millions of fans worldwide. Now Star Trek Pop-Ups delivers seven iconic Star Trek moments in a new way―popping off the page in three dimensions. From the original USS Enterprise in flight to the dreaded Borg cube from The Next Generation and beyond, here is an unforgettable series of alien encounters and thrilling action scenes, featuring memorable moments from Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise. Bursting with energy and ingenuity, Star Trek Pop-Ups will capture the imaginations of fans young and old. 7 pop-ups and 25 illustrations, all in colour.

Visit the book page on Goodreads for more information

This is a beautiful book that is a perfect gift for any Trekkies in your life. The book is much larger than I expected (around 30cm squared) and is a really well made with a padded front and back cover and seven wonderfully detailed pop up designs inside. This isn't a children's book but it's great for teens and adults who are fans of Star Trek (it includes designs from Original series, Next Generation, Voyager and Deep Space 9).

Each of the pop ups feature an iconic image from the show:
  1. U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701
  2. "The Trouble with Tribbles"
  3. Klingon Bird-of-Prey
  4. Borg Cube
  5. Deep Space 9
  6. "Bride of Chaotica"
  7. Enterprise NX-01
There is accompanying text with detailed information about the episode or series the image was taken from and although I doubt I'll reread the text I'll certainly revisit the book just for the pop-ups. Star Trek Pop-Ups is a lovely book to leave out as a conversation starter, it's certainly the kind of book you'll where you'll be able to flick through again and again spotting more details every time you look at it.

I've included a couple of images of the pop ups (take from Amazon) so you can get an idea of how detailed these pop-ups are:

Enterprise NX-01
Borg Cube

Source: Received from Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review

Other Reviews:
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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Review: Six of Crows - Leigh Bardugo

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he'll have to pull of a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)

Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)

Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)

Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done- and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together they might just be unstoppable - if they don't kill each other first.

A stunning new fantasy epic set in the world of the Grisha, from the best selling author of Shadow and Bone, Leigh Bardugo.

Six of Crows Duology:
(spin off series set in the same world but featuring different characters)
Six of Crows
Crooked Kingdom (2016)

The Grisha Trilogy:
The Witch of Duva (Short Story) (Can be read online on the Tor website here)
Shadow and Bone (Originally published in the UK as The Gathering Dark but now re-released as Shadow and Bone as per the US)
The Tailor (Short Story) (Can be read online on Leigh Bardugo's Facebook page here)
Siege and Storm
The Too-Clever Fox (Short Story) (Can be read online on the Tor website here)
Little Knife (Short Story) (Can be read online on the Tor website here)
Ruin and Rising

Visit Leigh Bardugo's website for more information

Original Review:
I've been a fan of Leigh Bardugo's ever since I discovered her Grisha trilogy so of course I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy of Six of Crows. I had high expectations going in but I was blown away by how amazing this book was. It's set in the same world as the previous books but if you're new to the author you can definitely start here. Fans will recognise a few nods to the other series but in general this is completely separate and it's actually a very different kind of story to anything we've had from Leigh Bardugo before.

Six of Crows is a heist story, one in which six characters have come together to attempt the impossible. Not only do they have to break into an impenetrable fortress but they also have to release a hostage and get him safely back out again. If they can pull off the challenge they'll earn more money than they could get in a lifetime of honest work but it will mean putting their lives at risk and trusting the rest of the team to each play their own vital role. Kaz may be the leader but he can't do this alone and only Inej, Nina, Jesper, Matthias and Wylan have the unique skills needed to help him pull off the heist of a lifetime.

It's been a long time since I was quite so invested in such a diverse bunch of characters. Kaz is a great anti-hero, nothing with him is quite what it seems and he is constantly at least ten steps ahead of everyone else. His planning skills are second to none and I loved the way he was constantly pulling off the unexpected even though the number of secrets he was keeping was incredibly frustrating for the rest of the team. Nina and Matthias have a very complicated history and it makes things more than a little awkward between them, they're more likely to kill each other before the mission is complete than to actually have each other's backs but I really enjoyed the way we got to learn about their pasts through various flashbacks. They have both done things they're not proud of and they have good reasons not to trust each other but they're going to have to find a way to work together, at least temporarily, if they want to achieve their goals. Jesper added a lot of humour to the group, he's probably the least conflicted character in the bunch but he's loyal and is trusted by everyone. Wylan is a bit of an unknown quantity, as the newest member of the group and someone that none of them have ever worked with before he has to prove his loyalty before he can gain their trust.

As much as I loved all of the characters it was Inej who quickly became my favourite - she's just absolutely brilliant and I couldn't get enough of her. Nicknamed The Wraith, Inej is an expert at sneaking around, her acrobatic skills mean she can get anywhere and you'll never hear her coming. If Kaz needs a silent assassin Inej is the one he sends but she's best at spying and an expert at gathering the secrets of his enemies. Inej puts all other badass women to shame and I don't think there is anything she can't achieve but she's also one of the sweetest characters who has been through some horrific things and I desperately want to see her dreams come true.

I was a little worried at first that it might be hard to keep track of who everyone is, books with this many different points of view can get incredibly complicated, but Leigh Bardugo has given them all such unique voices and made all six of them so three dimensional that I had no problems at all keeping things straight. The same definitely can't be said of Kaz's plans for the heist because that was twist, after twist, after twist and I swear I was on the edge of my seat for the entire second half of the book. You never had a clue what would be thrown at the characters next and I was genuinely concerned that not everyone was going to survive the mission. The first half was a little slower as it introduced each of the characters and laid all the groundwork for what was to follow but I was never bored and I loved every minute of it.

Speaking as a Leigh Bardugo fan girl I would definitely say that this is her best book yet, I love the Grisha trilogy but this is on a whole new level and epic doesn't even begin to describe Six of Crows. It was marketed as Oceans Eleven meets Game of Thrones and it lives up to the hype, it's fast paced, witty, clever and the characters are absolutely fantastic. The first instalment of a duology Six of Crows doesn't answer every question but it doesn't end on a cliffhanger and you will find out if they can pull of their heist or not. The sequel, Crooked Kingdom, is now at the top of my wish list for 2016 and I can't wait to spend more time with these characters!

Source: Received from Orion in exchange for an honest review

Other Reviews:
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Sunday, 22 November 2015

Review: Ember - Bettie Sharpe

Everyone loves Prince Charming. They have to—he’s cursed. Every man must respect him. Every woman must desire him. One look, and all is lost.

Ember would rather carve out a piece of her soul than be enslaved by passions not her own. She turns to the dark arts to save her heart and becomes the one woman in the kingdom able to resist the Prince’s Charm.

Poor girl. If Ember had spent less time studying magic and more time studying human nature, she might have guessed that a man who gets everything and everyone he wants will come to want the one woman he cannot have.

Novella / 32,000 words

Warning: This story contains sex, violence, and naughty words.
It’s based on a fairytale, but it isn’t for kids.

Visit Bettie Sharpe's website for more information

Forget everything you've ever heard about Cinderella, the true tale is nothing like the fairytale that Disney would have you believe. If you want to know what REALLY happened then look no further than Ember by Bettie Sharpe. The opening lines should give you a hint of what to expect inside these pages:

"I know you think you've heard this story before, but you're wrong. Some would have it that this story begins with a virtuous virgin, a young woman of honesty and integrity sucker punched by cruel fortune and forced to sleep among the cinders while her moral inferiors live the life that was meant to be hers. Bullshit."

So now that we're clear on what this story is NOT let's have a look at what it is. This is the story of Ember, a fiercely independent young woman who is so determined not to fall prey to a curse that she cuts off her own finger and gives part of herself to the fire so she can become a witch with enough powers to resist a prince's charms. You see Ember lives in a land with a cursed prince, Adrian was "gifted" with the ability to charm everyone he meets, every woman wants to bed him and every man respects him. He can have everything he wants with absolutely no effort and you can just imagine the kind of man that has made him. Ember may have started with magic but she isn't immune to Adrian's curse, her ability does give her a slight resistance though and she will do whatever it takes to break his hold over her even if it means turning to the darker side of magic and offering up blood sacrifices to do it.

I absolutely loved this story, I loved it so much that I've already read it twice and without a doubt it's one of the best fairytale retellings I've ever come across. Bettie Sharpe has done an amazing job of turning everything we know about the tale of Cinderella on it's head, nothing is what you'd expect yet there are explanations for all of the elements of the original story that make this one feel truly authentic. Ember isn't treated as a second class citizen in her own home, in fact her step-mother and step-sisters are her best friends, and she definitely isn't someone who needs to be rescued since she is more than capable of looking after herself and everyone else she cares about. There are so many positive messages in this story and it's impressive how much the author has managed to fit into 90 pages. It's not often that you read a book and can't think of a single thing to complain about but that was the case here and I need to start making my way through the author's other titles ASAP.

This is definitely an adult retelling but if you're looking for a darker version of Cinderella, a story that has magic, curses and more than a little smut then you're going to love Ember.

Source: I read this book for free on Bettie Sharp's website

Other reviews of this book:
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Saturday, 21 November 2015

Cover Reveal: The Lust is the Thorn - Jen McLaughlin

Today we are revealing the cover for LUST IS THE THORN by Jen McLaughlin. This book is being released by Random House on April 19th, 2016. Check out the fantastic blurb below.


From the bestselling author of Bad Romance (“A sexy, emotional, steamy read.”—Addison Moore) comes an edgy novel about a reformed bad boy training to be a priest and the fallen angel who makes him think twice about giving up earthly pleasures.

Growing up hard and fast on the mean streets of Chicago, Thorn McKinney didn’t have a prayer—until tragedy inspired him to join the seminary. Now the time has come to take his vows, and yet he’s haunted by the woman he can’t leave behind: his best friend’s little sister. Despite Thorn’s promises that he’d keep her safe, she’s going through hell. And now he finds himself torn between duty and desire, entranced by the seductive pull of her trusting eyes, innocent heart, and sinfully sweet curves.

Trying to let Thorn pursue his calling, Rose Gallagher has been hiding some things: namely her abusive boyfriend and her job as a stripper. But when she hits rock bottom, Thorn is there for her—and now there’s no denying the raw temptation that draws them together in their darkest moments. Rose may have found salvation in his strong arms, but she knows that Thorn must choose his own path: in the church, or in the warm embrace of a woman’s love.

Praise for the novels of Jen McLaughlin

“Addicting from start to finish!”—New York Times bestselling author Addison Moore

“With hot, sexy chemistry and heroes to die for, Jen McLaughlin’s books always deliver!”—New York Times bestselling author Laura Kaye

“Jen McLaughlin’s books are sexy and satisfying reads!”—New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Probst



Jen McLaughlin is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of sexy books with Penguin Random House. Under her pen name, Diane Alberts, she is also a USA TODAY bestselling author of Contemporary Romance with Entangled Publishing. Her first release as Jen McLaughlin, Out of Line, hit the New York Times, USA TODAY and Wall Street Journal lists. She was mentioned in Forbes alongside E. L. James as one of the breakout independent authors to dominate the bestselling lists. She is represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency.

Though she lives in the mountains, she really wishes she was surrounded by a hot, sunny beach with crystal-clear water. She lives in Northeast Pennsylvania with her four kids, a husband, a schnauzer mutt, and four cats. Her goal is to write so many well-crafted romance books that even a non-romance reader will know her name.


Friday, 20 November 2015

Review: Simon's Cat in Kitten Chaos - Simon Tofield

Like all great cartoon creations, from Peanuts to Asterix, from Garfield to Tintin, Simon's Cat has continued to evolve by introducing new characters and developing new storylines. After the runaway success of the original book, Simon Tofield returned with the further adventures of his feline 'beyond the fence.'

Now we welcome a cuddly new addition to the family in the form of Simon's Kitten. It's an adorable new chapter which is sure to delight Simon's millions of fans.

Simon's Cat Series:
Simon's Cat in His Very Own Book
Simon's Cat: Beyond the Fence
Simon's Cat in Kitten Chaos
Simon's Cat: Feed Me!
Simon's Cat vs. the World
Simon's Cat: Wake Up!
Simon's Cat: Play Time!
The Bumper Book of Simon's Cat
Simon's Cat Off to the Vet . . . and Other Cat-astrophes

Visit the Simon's Cat website for more information or to watch the videos

The Simon's Cat videos never fail to make me laugh, even when I'm having the worst day possible I can watch pretty much any of them to put a smile on my face so of course I've been religiously buying the books as they're published. Since I currently have a new kitten in the house this seemed like the perfect time to pick Kitten Chaos back up for probably the billionth time. These are the kind of books that you can leave sat on the coffee table and flick through whenever you have a couple of minutes (my friend actually has a whole shelf of books like this in her bathroom!) but this time I sat and read from cover to cover and found myself giggling away to myself the whole way through.

Simon Tofield is obviously an experienced cat owner and he captures common personality traits over and over again in his drawings and videos. I see hints of every cat I've ever met in these books but Kitten Chaos was particularly appropriate because my kitten is incredibly good at creating mayhem. So many of these images are currently part of daily life in my house and that just made them even more amusing.

I love the videos, I love these books and I'll continue to purchase them until the author stops publishing them!

Here are just a couple of my favourite drawings from the book to give you a better idea of what's included:

My older cat is not at all impressed 
to have a newcomer in the house

The kitten is slowly destroying my
house, one room at a time!

and I'm covered in scratches from being used
as a walking climbing frame LOL

Since it was the videos that started it all I couldn't resist including one of my favourites with both Simon's Cat and the kitten:

Source: Purchased

Other Reviews:
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Thursday, 19 November 2015

Review: Girl From Above: Trapped - Pippa DaCosta

"When are you going to stop running, Caleb?"

Taking the synth to the casino capital of the nine systems seemed like a great idea at the time, but as Caleb Shepperd's many enemies close in, he only has one way out. He must betray #1001.

Caleb can't make the same mistake twice. Can he?

#1001 has a price on her head. The Fenrir Nine and Chitec will stop at nothing to secure her secrets. The very same secrets that riddle her synthetic mind with faults.

Her systems are failing.

And the one man she's come to trust may prove to be her enemy.

The 1000 Revolution:
Girl From Above: Betrayal
Girl From Above: Escape
Girl From Above: Trapped
Girl From Above: Trust (2016)

Visit Pippa DaCosta's website for more information

I find it really, really difficult to write reviews for the books in this series because they're so amazingly good that I struggle to find the words to talk about them. I know there is no way to do Girl From Above: Trapped justice but I'll do my best to give you full sentences rather than just a whole page of "Read it! Read it! Read it! Read it!"

Every time I think things can't get worse for #1001 Pippa DaCosta proves me wrong, considering that nobody is supposed to know she even exists she's actually become the most wanted synth in the system. She's travelling with Caleb but they're out of luck and running low on credits. Caleb comes up with the idea to scam the casinos on planet Lyra hoping that with #1001's memory they'll be able to earn more than enough to make their escape. Unfortunately he didn't consider the possibility of running into old enemies and now he's in serious trouble. It looks like his only option is to betray #1001 and sell her off to the highest bidder. Caleb has made a lot of bad decisions in his life but can he bring himself to give #1001 to her enemies for a second time?

I want to talk about how much I love these characters, none of them are good guys - you'd see Caleb's picture next to the word anti-hero if you look it up in a dictionary - but they're all fascinating and so multidimensional. You may not always agree with the decisions that they make but you'll be able to understand why they made them and if you're anything like me you'll find yourself rooting for them almost against your own common sense. Throughout the series we've seen a lot of changes in Caleb, #1001 brings out the best side of him but even that may not be enough to save her.For her part #1001 is becoming more human in her reactions to things but at the same time she is still very "other" and her system is getting close to shut down thanks to the multitude of faults in her processor. It was really interesting to see her start to differentiate more between the memories that belonged to Haley and the ones that are part of her new programming, she is starting to mesh the two sides together and become something that is completely unique.

I'm not going to talk about the plot but if you've ever read anything by Pippa DaCosta you should know to expect the unexpected. If you're a fan of this series you'll also know to expect betrayal and deceit, lots of action, shocking twists and probably a little heartache. I honestly have no idea what to expect from the next, and final, instalment but I absolutely can't wait to get my hands on a copy of Girl From Above: Trust. This has become a favourite series and I'm desperate to see all my favourite characters get exactly what they deserve!

Source: Received from Pippa DaCosta in exchange for an honest review

Other Reviews:
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