Sunday, 21 January 2018

Review: Total Surrender - Rebecca Zanetti

A fight he must win . . .

Piper Oliver knows she can't trust him. They warned her that the tall, dark, and sexy black-ops soldier Jory Dean would try to win her over with his steel-gray eyes and deadly charm, but she won't be conned by this man they call a traitor. All she has to do is figure out the science necessary to save his life, and she's done. Something isn't adding up, though, and she won't rest until she uncovers the truth-even if it's buried in his deep, dangerous kiss.

A passion she can't resist . . .

Jory will do anything to reunite with and save his brothers-even kidnap the gorgeous woman who's working to deactivate the deadly chip in their spines. But the forces determined to destroy his family won't let them go so easily. Keeping Piper alive is more than he bargained for-and so is his burning desire for her. But with every second bringing him closer to certain death, can he afford to lose himself in her hot and willing embrace?

Sin Brothers Series:
Forgotten Sins
Sweet Revenge
Blind Faith
Total Surrender

Blood Brothers Series:
(Spin off from the Sin Brothers)
Deadly Silence
Lethal Lies
Twisted Truths

Visit Rebecca Zanetti's website for more information

Review:
As much as I've loved all the books in the Sin Brother's series Jory's story is the one I've been desperately waiting for since the very beginning. We've not had a chance to get to know him in the previous stories because he's been missing this whole time but we've seen glimpses of him as a child through all of his brother's eyes and I was desperate to see them all finally reunited. It turns out that Jory has been back in the Commander's control for the last few years, the video the brother's saw of him being shot wasn't faked and he was in a coma for years before requiring huge amounts of physiotherapy to get back on his feet. Now he's physically as strong as ever but the death chip implanted in his spine was damaged by the bullet and unless the Commander's top doctors can find a way to connect to it and enter the deactivation code he only has weeks to live.

Piper has been given the task of fixing Jory's chip. She has been told she is working with a traitor to her country and that they need her to save him so that they can get information about terrorist plans but she has no idea that Jory was actually the Commander's own creation. Piper has every reason to distrust Jory but the longer she spends with him working to fix the chip the more she realises that things aren't adding up around her and starts to question what she's been told. Jory will do anything to escape and get Piper back to his brothers so that she can deactivate their chips, he knows there is no chance for him because of the damage to his chip but he wants to save the others and he wants to see them one last time before he dies.

This whole series has been fantastic but I think Total Surrender was my favourite, I loved getting to know both Jory and Piper and it was brilliant to catch up with the previous couples too. There are some incredibly surprising revelations in this book and we get to see the family grow in more ways than one. Jory and Piper's romance was spot on, they go from wary strangers to reluctant allies to much, much more and I admired Piper's determination to do whatever it took to save her man and his brothers. I also love the strong bond between the Dean family, I waited a long time to see the brother's reunited and I'm not going to lie there were tears in my eye when they finally found each other again. This series has everything I want from a romantic suspense and I'm absolutely thrilled that there is a spin off series too, I can't wait to meet the Blood Brothers in Deadly Silence!

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

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Saturday, 20 January 2018

Review: The Golden Umbrella: Nepalese Folktales

Golden Umbrella is like a multi-coloured lantern. The folktales included in this collection cover almost the entire spectrum of human emotions and situations. Some of them have the mellow fragrance of love, while some others reek of hatred and jealousy. Some tales have ghosts and apparitions as their main characters while in some one will find people indulging in cannibalism.

All the tales have been picked up from small villages. They express various aspects of country life, offer an insight into the complexities of human mind and provide a panoramic view of the cultural and social life of Nepali villages. Also reflected in them are many local life-styles, activities, beliefs, feelings, superstitions, customs and inhibitions, as well as a deep faith in the supernatural.

Golden Umbrella has everything: love and revenge, miracles and magic, infidelity and betrayal, greed and magnanimity - you name it.

Fascinating folktales that will hold the reader spellbound.

Review:
The Golden Umbrella is a collection of 22 Nepalese Folktales that have been collected from across the country by five authors (Eva Kipp, Hem Rai, Dilip Sapkota, Rajendra Bajracharya and Parmeswari Shrestha) and illustrated by Eva Kipp.

These stories are all very short (1-2 pages) but they remind me a little of the original Grimm tales (although not quite so dark) or Rudyard Kipling's Just So stories, they're written with a moral in mind and they get to the point very quickly.

You'll find stories about cannibals, jealous husbands, unfaithful wives, magical creatures, demons, witches and even a ghost and they're meant to portray a range of emotions from love to jealousy or bravery against impossible odds.

This book was a quick read and something that is very easy to dip in and out of. The translation to English isn't always perfect but that was easy to ignore and I found myself really enjoying the stories. A nice little reminder of our trip to Nepal!

Here are a couple of the illustrations

Source: Christmas present from my Dad

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Review: Lonely Planet Nepal

Lonely Planet Nepal is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Soak in the hustle-and-bustle of Kathmandu's Durbar Square, trek to the base of the world's highest mountain, or raft the rapids of the Bhote Kosi; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Nepal and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Nepal Travel Guide:
  • Colour maps and images throughout
  • Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - history, religion, art, literature, cinema, music, architecture, politics, landscapes, wildlife, environmental issues.
  • Over 11 colour maps
  • Covers Kathmandu, Kathmandu Valley & Around, Pokhara, The Terai & Mahabharat Range, and trekking, biking, rafting and kayaking routes and more
The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Nepal, our most comprehensive guide to Nepal, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less travelled.
  • Looking for more extensive trekking coverage? Check out Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya for all you need to know to have a safe and rewarding trek.
  • Looking for a guide focused on other countries in the region? Check out our Lonely Planet Bhutan guide, India guide, and Tibet guide for a comprehensive look at all the region has to offer; or Discover India, a photo-rich guide to India's most popular attractions.
Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet, Bradley Mayhew, Lindsay Brown and Stuart Butler.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

Visit the Lonely Planet website for more information

Review:
I've always loved the Lonely Planet travel guides and this one is no exception, I purchased the 2015 edition of the Nepal guide before our trip last year and it was full of invaluable advice on everything from Nepal's history, local customs and religion to language guides, dos and don'ts and suggested itineraries for the main destinations. There is also a section on trekking (which I can't really comment on because we didn't use it) but I'd probably recommend purchasing the separate trekking guide if that's the purpose of your trip.

This guide includes a small section about the destruction caused in the 2015 earthquake but this edition was published within months of the disaster and there has been a lot of rebuilding work carried out since then so it isn't completely up to date. You will notice that a lot of the old temples in and around Kathmandu and Bhaktapur are still undergoing repair so there is a lot of wooden scaffolding around and unfortunately some buildings were completely destroyed but considering it had only been 2 years I was impressed by how much rebuilding had already been done. Lonely Planet is publishing an updated Nepal guide in July 2018 that will probably be slightly more accurate but we still found this was an incredibly useful guide.

We were staying with Nepalese family so had local tour guides for our entire trip but this book really is packed with interesting information about many of the larger temples and places of note and it has some fantastic itineraries for the main areas. We used the guide in Kathmandu, Pokhara, Bhaktapur and Chitwan National Park and there were definitely experiences we would have missed out on if we hadn't read about them in here first. The book gives a good rough idea of entrance fees for most attractions but we did notice that these weren't always completely correct.

If you're planning a trip to Nepal it is well worth trying to travel around the country to some of the larger cities and the National Park, there are so many amazing things to see and do that it's impossible to fit everything in in one trip - even without doing any of the major trekking routes! One piece of advice I can't stress highly enough is not to drink the local water without boiling it first though and if you do end up having a stomach issue go to one of the many local pharmacies as quickly as possible because the local medication is far better than anything you can purchase at home to take with you.

I'd definitely recommend purchasing this guide before your trip and it is well worth taking the time to read up on local customs and tips for travelling before you leave home. Take the time to learn a few Nepali phrases (the most important one being Namaste which can be used as hello, goodbye and just as a general friendly gesture), the Nepalese people are incredibly friendly and welcoming and very quick to smile even if communicating can be hard because of the language barrier.

Source: Purchased

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December 2015 Edition Paperback / Kindle or Preorder the updated July 2018 Edition:

Friday, 19 January 2018

Review: Oath Bound - Rachel Vincent

US Cover
The Tower Syndicate will fall...

The secret daughter of the head of an infamous Skilled crime family, Sera Brandt has hidden her past, her potential and especially her powers. But when a tragedy strikes her other family, Sera needs justice. And the only way to get it is to reveal her heritage- including a rare Skill-and take the reins of the TowerSyndicate from her cunning and malicious aunt.

If he can figure out how...

Kristopher Daniels might have the answer. He's fought the syndicate to protect his sisters, but he'd never realized just how close to the new heir he needed to get...

And if they can survive

Neither is used to trusting. But there's something between them that can't be ignored. And so Sera is on the run with a man she can't figure out, a target on her back and the new knowledge of just how powerful she really is....

Unbound Trilogy:
Blood Bound
Shadow Bound
Oath Bound

Visit Rachel Vincent's website for more information

Review:
Oath Bound is the final book in Rachel Vincent's Unbound trilogy and it was another great story, this world has been absolutely fascinating and I'm actually sad that this was the last book because I'd have loved to spend more time here. Kris has seen first hand how the Tower Syndicate nearly destroyed both his sisters and he is determined to bring them down once and for all so they can't hurt anyone else. He has been working with Kori and Kenley to slowly release people from their bindings but when Kenley is kidnapped and taken back into syndicate control Kris will stop at nothing to get her back.

Sera was the only survivor in a tragedy that killed her entire family, she is desperate for revenge against the person who cost her everything but the only way she can make them pay is by asking the syndicate for help. It's a move that could cost her everything but she's desperate enough to take that risk. When Kris sneaks into the Tower headquarters looking for his sister he ends up taking Sera with him as a bargaining tool. Neither of them have any reason to trust the other, especially considering the circumstances of their meeting and the huge secret that Sera is keeping, but it quickly becomes clear that they're in over their heads and the only chance they have of rescuing Kenley and staying alive themselves is by working together to bring the syndicate down for good.

This was another fast paced story full of plenty of action and a nice amount of romance. I enjoyed the bickering between Sera and Kris and I loved that she didn't let him off the hook for effectively kidnapping her, even if he did save her life in the process. Their romance was a nice slow build which made it believable and they were a cute couple. I enjoyed getting the chance to catch up with previous characters from the series, they all have a part to play in this book and it was good to see them working together to fight a common enemy.

This series has been a lot of fun to read and it's one I'm sure I'll end up rereading in the future. My one minor complaint is that I felt like there was possibly going to be a fourth book at one point so I didn't think things were quite finished as far as the Cavazos Syndicate. Don't get me wrong there are no big cliffhangers and this story felt completely resolved but I would have liked to revisit Cam and Liv's situation and helped them get their freedom too. The way things were left made it clear that good things would happen in the future but I would have liked to witness that for myself. That's a really minor issue though because I loved the way things ended for the rest of the characters!

The Unbound books are definitely darker than Rachel Vincent's Shifters series but she's created another interesting world that had me hooked from beginning to end.

Source: Purchased

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UK Cover
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Review: Shadow Bound - Rachel Vincent

US Cover
If you live in the dark long enough,
you begin to forget the light...

Kori Daniels is a shadow-walker, able to travel instantly from one shadow to another. After weeks of confinement for betraying her boss, she's ready to break free of the Tower syndicate for good. But Jake Tower has one final job for Kori, one chance to secure freedom for herself and her sister, Kenley, even if it means taking it from someone else....

The job? Recruit Ian Holt-or kill him.

Ian's ability to manipulate the dark has drawn interest from every syndicate in the world, most notably an invitation from Jake Tower. Though he has no interest in organized crime, Ian accepts the invite, because he's on a mission of his own. Ian has come to kill Tower's top Binder: Kori's little sister.

Amid the tangle of lies, an unexpected thread of truth connecting Ian and Kori comes to light. But with opposing goals, they'll have to choose between love and liberty....

Unbound Trilogy:
Blood Bound
Shadow Bound
Oath Bound

Visit Rachel Vincent's website for more information

Review:
I first read Blood Bound when it was published back in 2011 but for some reason I never got around to picking up the rest of the series as they released. I'm so glad I finally came back to the series though because it's so different from anything else I've been reading recently. It was a good job I reread Blood Bound first though because Rachel Vincent has created a complex world with a large cast of characters and I wouldn't have enjoyed Shadow Bound half as much if I'd not been able to remember everything.

I have to admit I was surprised when I realised this story was going to be told from Kori and Ian's points of view rather than those of Liv and Cam. I honestly thought this whole series was going to be about the same couple and it was a little weird to move on when it didn't feel like their story was finished. I should have known to trust Rachel Vincent though, switching to Kori's point of view allows us to see the inner workings of the Tower Syndicate, something we didn't see in the first book. We met Kori in the previous book, she risked a lot to help Liv and Cam and she has paid a very high price for that since the end of the first book. Jake Tower is every bit as ruthless as Ruben Cavazos and Kori has been made an example off because of her betrayal. It was actually pretty hard to read about everything she has been though so even though there was no gratuitous detail this series is definitely a lot darker than the Shifters series ever was.

Kori has been given one last chance to prove her usefulness to Tower, she has to recruit Ian to the syndicate and if she fails then not only will her life be forfeit but her sister will also suffer the same torture that Kori only just survived. Ian is a new character to the series, he has his own reasons to want to infiltrate Tower's syndicate. He has absolutely no intention of signing up but he does plan to bring Tower down and save his brother's life in the process. These two are both incredibly protective of the people they care about and unfortunately the only way they can save the siblings they love is to destroy each other. They are both strong characters, Kori has survived hell and always comes back fighting, she has done everything she possibly can to defy Tower even knowing what it could cost her but she would never risk her sister. Ian definitely has a bit of a hero complex, he just can't resist a damsel in distress and as it becomes clear how desperate Kori's situation is he realises he needs to come up with a new plan.

I'm not going to go into any more detail about the plot but I loved the slow build romance between these two. The physical attraction is there from the very beginning but it takes a long time for trust to build and for them to start sharing secrets. We get to see a couple of brief appearances from Liv and Cam which was nice but I have to admit it didn't show them in the best light because they are firmly Cavazos' thumb and have no choice but to follow his orders. What I'm REALLY hoping is that the final book (told from the points of view of Kori's brother Kristopher and new character Sera) will let us see all three couples working together and finally bringing down both syndicates once and for all. I desperately want them all to have the happy endings they deserve!

Source: Purchased

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UK Cover
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Thursday, 18 January 2018

Review: Otherworld - Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller

The Company Welcomes you To OTHERWORLD The new generation of gaming.

Welcome to real life 2.0.
Are you ready to play?

There are no screens. There are no controls.
You don’t just see and hear it—you taste, smell, and touch it too.
In this new reality there are no rules to follow, no laws to break.
You can indulge your every desire.
Why would you ever want to leave?
Step into Otherworld.
Leave your body behind.

Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller have created a brilliant and terrifying view of a possible future that’s not far away. OTHERWORLD asks the question we’ll all soon be asking: if technology can deliver everything we want, how much are we willing to pay?

Otherworld Series:
Otherworld
Otherearth (2018)

Visit Kirsten Miller's website for more information

Review:
I love stories that look at what technology might make possible in the not too distant future and with virtual reality something that is becoming more and more easily accessible Otherworld appealed to me as soon as I heard about it. The virtual reality game in this book is way more advanced than anything we have now though, it is a full on experience where you can not only see and interact with your surroundings but you can also taste and touch everything in the Otherworld as if it was completely real.

This story has two very distinct storylines, first there is the action adventure that Simon is on inside the Otherworld, his quest is to track down his best friend Kat and find a way to bring her safely out of the virtual reality environment. Then there is the real world which is more of a mystery story where Simon is trying to find out more about the company that created the Otherworld and a rash of mysterious illnesses that seem to be effecting people in his city.

This was a really fun story to read, it doesn't take itself too seriously and I have to admit it could have done with a little more development of the main characters but if you just relax and go along for the ride it's an amusing journey. I think I enjoyed the story taking place inside the Otherworld slightly more, Simon collects a ragtag group of allies as he goes along and the virtual world created was really vibrant and interesting. I had a harder time with the real life side of the plot because it was harder to suspend belief that Simon was able to uncover all these secrets and sneak into secure facilities without having too much difficulty.

Otherworld was definitely a story I enjoyed though and I'll definitely be picking up the sequel when it's released later this year.

Source: Received from Rock the Boat in exchange for an honest review

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Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Review: Unchained by a Forbidden Love - Felicity Heaton

Lost to the darkness, Fuery wages a daily war against the corruption that lives within him, constantly in danger of slipping into the black abyss and becoming the monster all elves fear. Work as an assassin gives him purpose, but what reason is there to go on when he killed the light of his life - his fated mate?

Shaia has spent forty-two centuries mourning her mate. Tired and worn down, she agrees to wed a male of her family's choosing, following tradition that has always bound her as a female and hoping she will be able to gain just a little freedom in return. But as she resigns herself to being the mate of a male she could never love, fate places an old friend in her path - one who tells her that her lost love is alive.

Will Shaia find the courage to break with tradition and leave the elf kingdom in search of her mate? And as a ray of light pierces his soul again, can Fuery find the strength to win his battle against the darkness or will it devour him and that light of their forbidden love forever?

Eternal Mates Series:
(This series is set in the same world as the Vampire Erotic Theatre series but can be read completely separately)
Kissed by a Dark Prince
Claimed by a Demon King
Tempted by a Rogue Prince
Hunted by a Jaguar
Craved by an Alpha
Bitten by a Hellcat
Taken by a Dragon
Marked by an Assassin
Possessed by a Dark Warrior
Awakened by a Demoness
Haunted by the King of Death
Tuned by a Tiger
Tamed by a Tiger
Treasured by a Tiger
Unchained by a Forbidden Love

Vampire Erotic Theatre Series:
Covet
Crave
Seduce
Enslave
Bewitch
Unleash

Visit Felicity Heaton's website for more information

Review:
If you're a fan of the Eternal Mates series then you'll probably remember meeting Fuery before, he's one of the elves who is very, very close to giving into the darkness inside him and becoming completely lost to bloodlust. The only things keeping him going have been his bond with fellow assassin Hartt and seeing Prince Vail start to recover since meeting his fated mate Rosalind. Fuery is full of doubt and self loathing after certain events in his past have left him broken, he accidentally killed his fated mate in a fit of rage and doesn't believe he deserves forgiveness or redemption.

Shaia has been grieving for the mate she lost over four centuries ago and she has been kept from living a full life by a very overprotective family and a patriarchal society that believe women should be cosseted and looked after by the men in their lives. She is desperate to break free and make her own choices but when her family caught her at a low point they persuaded her to agree to marry a man of their choosing. The last thing she wants is to end up stuck in a loveless marriage and when an old friend gives her hope that the one thing she has always wanted more than anything might still be possible she has to face her fears and go searching for the happily ever after she deserves.

I'm a sucker for a broken hero so of course I've been waiting what feels like forever to get my hands on Fuery's book. He was so heartbreakingly sad and broken by the events of his past and even when he's confronted with the truth he is scared to believe it. The only thing that's kept him going this long is the strong bond of friendship he has with fellow assassin Hartt and I really loved the bond between them. I may have been a little annoyed by Hartt's actions at times when it came to Shaia but he was only ever trying to protect Fuery so I could forgive him for that and I really hope we get a story about him in the future. Shaia has spent her whole life being protected by her family and has never really had to face the world on her own but she's brave and determined so I enjoyed seeing her stretch her wings and fight for the things she wanted most. Their romance was surprisingly sweet considering the darkness Fuery has inside him and I loved seeing them work through their demons together.

Unchained by a Forbidden Love was another fab instalment to the Eternal Mates series and I'm already looking forward to the next one!

Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review

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