Sunday, May 30, 2010

In my mailbox (2)

In my mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. I've received 5 books this week and have to admit to being really excited about reading all of them. 

Not sure where I'm going to find the time, as I still have to get through last week's pile and I'm swamped with 2010 World cup editorial (yup, that's less than 20 days away now and the excitement is at fever pitch here in South Africa right now!) stuff for the week, but knowing me, I'll always make time for reading.

Anyway, here's the books that I've received this week.

Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow

Summary:
The Real World is a frightening place. Just ask sixteen-year-old orphan Dru Anderson, a tough girl who has taken on her fair share of bad guys. She's armed, dangerous, and not going down without a fight. So it's gonna take her a while to figure out who she can trust...

Poor Dru. Her parents are long gone. Her best (okay, only) friend Graves has been bitten by a werewolf. And she just learned that the blood flowing through her veins isn't entirely human. Now Dru's strange and handsome savior, Christophe, has her hidden away at a secret Schola for djamphir and wolfen teens. Trouble is, she's the only girl in the place. The really bad news? Dru's killer instinct says that one of her schoolmates wants her dead.

With all eyes on her, discovering a traitor within the Order could mean a lot more than social suicide...
Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz
Summary:When the Mayflower set sail in 1620, it carried on board the men and women who would shape America: Miles Standish; John Alden; Constance Hopkins. But some among the Pilgrims were not pure of heart; they were not escaping religious persecution. Indeed, they were not even human. 

They were vampires.The vampires assimilated quickly into the New World. Rising to levels of enormous power, wealth, and influence, they were the celebrated blue bloods of American society.

The Blue Bloods vowed that their immortal status would remain a closely guarded secret. And they kept that secret for centuries. But now, in New York City, the secret is seeping out. Schuyler Van Alen is a sophomore at a prestigious private school. Suddenly, when she turns fifteen, there is a visible mosaic of blue veins on her arm.

She starts to crave raw food and she is having flashbacks to ancient times. Then a girl from her school is found dead... drained of all her blood. Schuyler doesn't know what to think.
 
Could those vampire legends really be true? Steeped in vampire lore and set against the heady backdrop of the rich, young, and powerful in the heart of New York City, Blue Bloods will be devoured by Melissa de la Cruz's legion fans.

Masquerade by Melissa de La Cruz
Summary:
Schuyler Van Alen is starting to get more comfortable with her newfound vampire powers, but she still has many unanswered questions. 

A trip to Italy in search of her grandfather only serves to make things more confusing. What secrets are the leaders of The Committee hiding? 

Meanwhile, back in New York, preparations are feverishly underway for the famous Four Hundred Ball. 

In true Blue Blood fashion, the ball is totally fab, complete with masks, and hidden behind this masquerade is a revelation that will change the course of a young vampire's destiny.



Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier
summary:
Second of the Sevenwaters trilogy of novels (Daughter of the Forest was the first) about the last days of heroic Ireland, Son of the Shadows takes up the story of the children of Sorcha, who saved her enchanted brothers, and Hugh, the Briton she married. 

Sorcha's daughter Liadan is a gifted seer and healer who thinks, in spite of her visions, that she knows what the future has in store for her--caring for her dying mother and then an alliance marriage to Eamonn. 

A chance meeting on the road carries her off to care for a dying man -one of the mercenaries of the sinister Painted Man, Eamonn's archenemy and a killer for hire. Liadan discovers that she cannot choose whom she loves and that she and the Painted Man are as bound up in destiny as her mother and father were before her. 

And finally, an adult urban fantasy thrown into the mix for good measure.

Visions of Heat by Nalini Singh
Summary:

Used to cold silence, Faith NightStar is suddenly being tormented by dark visions of blood and murder. A bad sign for anyone, but worse for Faith, an F-Psy with the highly sought after ability to predict the future. Then the visions show her something even more dangerous-aching need...exquisite pleasure. 

But so powerful is her sight, so fragile the state of her mind, that the very emotions she yearns to embrace could be the end of her. Changeling Vaughn D'Angelo can take either man or jaguar form, but it is his animal side that is overwhelmingly drawn to Faith. The jaguar's instinct is to claim this woman it finds so utterly fascinating and the man has no argument. 

But while Vaughn craves sensation and hungers to pleasure Faith in every way, desire is a danger that could snap the last threads of her sanity. And there are Psy who need Faith's sight for their own purposes. They must keep her silenced-and keep her from Vaughn...

That's it from me. Looking forward to read these books and even more so to reviewing them. So, what's in your mailbox this week?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Book review: Fallen

Fallen
Dark, intensely atmospheric and above all romantic, Fallen will cast you into a paranormal world where the lines between good and evil are blurred and where knowing too much could cost you dearly...

Fallen by Lauren Kate (Random House Children's Books)

Let's face it. There are a lot of paranormal young adult fiction books out there in the bookosphere. Some good, some bad and some just tragically average. However, in the midst of all the choices, there is always one book that eventually stands out and just screams "read me".

For me, Fallen was one such book.

Ironically enough, it took me a while to actually start reading it because I've heard so many mixed reviews about this book; the main complaint being that build-up to the actual plot action took far too long, and that some of the character development left much to be desired. Of course, I didn't let other people's opinion get in the way, but I wanted a chance for both the hype and the criticism to die down before I actually read it.

And let me say that I'm glad I went that route, because once I started reading, I couldn't help but fall in love with Fallen.

To give you a brief synopsis of the story, Fallen revolves around the story of Lucinda Price and Daniel Grigori.

 After mysterious circumstances in which Lucinda Price's crush dies, Lucy finds herself at the Sword & Cross boarding school - a school for juvenile delinquents and other screw ups who are there for number of reasons. 

The school is dark, depressing and stifling; and feels more like a dilapidated prison house than a school. Then she lays eyes on Daniel Grigori and everything changes. From the moment she sees him, she can't help but shake the feeling that they've met before. And though she feels an instant attraction and connection to him, Daniel on the other hand, shows nothing but aloof hostility towards her. (No, this isn't Twilight, don't worry)

Still, in spite of his attitude, she can't help but go out of the way to try and find out why he seems so familiar, except in doing so, she sets on a potentially dangerous path which will change her life forever.

I honestly loved this book. I thought it was hypnotically intense and undeniably absorbing. Yes, I do agree to an extent that Fallen was a little slow-reading, but Lauren Kate's writing is so poetically compelling, that I actually didn't really mind it, and in instances, confess to actually welcoming it.

Luce's character was quite interesting and I love the fact that she's so assertive and brave, even though her bravery often errs on the side of foolishness. 

And Daniel? Well, what can I say about him that hasn't been said before?  I love his character but at the same time think that that could change (I won't reveal why just yet). Every single character in this book is interesting but most of their stories are not quite revealed to us, which is a good thing because it leaves room open for the continuation of this story in the next novel, Torment.

Unfortunately, it does mean we have to wait until September for the release date of the next instalment, but in the meantime for those who are hesitant to read this book, give it a chance - you might find yourself pleasantly surprised.  I adored it and can't wait to read the next book.

My rating: 4/5 stars

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Torment

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking  the Spine. The idea behind this meme is to highlight up and coming releases that we just can't wait to read. Today's choice is Torment by Lauren Kate.

I specifically chose this because:
1) I'm really looking forward to reading the sequel to Fallen (which, despite the many mixed reviews  this book received, I loved) and
2) I'm in the process of writing the review for Fallen and will have it up later this week. (I'm gunning for tomorrow, but I'm counting on the fact that daily life and work won't get in the way of this goal)

Torment by Lauren Kate
Release date: 28 September 2010
Summary from Goodreads.com
How many lives do you need to live before you find someone worth dying for? In the aftermath of what happened at Sword & Cross, Luce has been hidden away by her cursed angelic boyfriend, Daniel, in a new school filled with Nephilim, the offspring of fallen angels and humans. 

Daniel promises she will be safe here, protected from those who would kill her. At the school Luce discovers what the Shadows that have followed her all her life mean - and how to manipulate them to see into her other lives.

Yet the more Luce learns about herself, the more she realizes that the past is her only key to unlocking her future...and that Daniel hasn't told her everything. 

What if his version of the past isn't actually the way things happened...what if Luce was really meant to be with someone else? 

How fabulous is the cover? And how awesome does this book sound? I'm dying to find out what's going to happen next that's for sure. 

Anyway, what's on your Waiting on Wednesday list? Let me know - I'm always looking for more books to add to my reading pile.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Book review: Daughter of the Forest

Daughter of the Forest
An enchanting and fantastical fairytale and love story set in the heart of Celtic Ireland.  

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier (Tor Books)
I have to admit that when a colleague of mine lent me this book, I didn't really have all that much hope for it. Sure, she couldn't stop raving about it, but there was something so dull and lacklustre about the cover that it took me a good while to actually get around to reading it.

But, I can safely say that I really, really loved this book.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that this is one of the best fantasy books I've read in a while. Like my colleague, I initially thought that this book was intended for a much younger audience, but I truly think that older and younger readers alike will be completely and utterly charmed by this magical little tale.

The book is loosely based on The Six Swans - which tells the story of a girl with 6 brothers who are enchanted by an evil sorceress and cursed to live as Swans. In order to unbind the spell, the girl has to spin and weave 6 jackets from stinging plants - and endure every moment of the painful task in complete and utter silence.

In this book (which by the way, is the first book in a trilogy), Sorcha, the seventh and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters, has to watch as her father is bewitched and blinded by an evil enchantress, witness her brothers being bound by a powerful spell that changes them into swans and take on a task set by the Fair Folk's queen - the Lady of the Forest, in which of course, she has to remain mute.

However,  remaining silent for the duration of the task is no easy feat and when Sorcha is kidnapped by the enemies of Sevenwaters and taken away from the dense, green forest that she knows and loves, her strength of character - she finds -  is only beginning to be tested. And in the midst of it all, love also decides to make its appearance and wreak havoc on the already heavily burden young girl.

Can she stay on the path that was set for her? Or will she succumb to all the forces that are crowding in on her and waiting for her to make one wrong move?

Juliet Marillier has a gift for writing. Not only that, she has a gift for creating characters that are incredibly multilayered, complex and unbelievably likeable. I loved Sorcha's character from the minute I started reading and couldn't help but laugh, cry and rooting for her throughout the novel. She's brave, flawed, strong and courageous and has a strong sense of loyalty towards those that she loves.

That's not the only reason I love this book though. The writing itself is beautifully descriptive; old Celtic folklore coming to life under the hands of Marillier, who demonstrates a vivid understanding of Celtic myths and legends.

The world she creates is filled with magic, legends and wonderfully crafted heroes, while at the same time also managing to create villains that are so dripping with menace, you actually feel like you have to find some hiding spot for fear of having them find you.

All in all, I'd highly recommend this book.

My rating: A well-deserved 5/5 

(I've got to get my rating system into place. The only reason I haven't done so is because I'm just so excited about posting my reviews up asap. Sigh. I'm sure I'll get around to it eventually.)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

In my mailbox (1)


In my mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

This is my very first In my mailbox that I'm doing and am really looking forward to doing this on a weekly basis. Anyway, the list of books I have aren't all that new, but they are books that I've been dying to read, so I'm quite excited about them.

Here's what's in my mailbox this week:



















Need by Carrie Jones



















Captivate also by Carrie Jones (This follows Need)




















Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston (Especially excited about this one - I've heard so many good things about this one)





















Ice by Sarah Beth Durst

And finally...




















Immortal: Love Stories with Bite edited by P.C. Cast


Right, so that's in my mailbox for the week. Now to figure out which book I should start reading first...
The joys of reading :)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Book review: The Anniversary Man

The Anniversary Man
A literary crime fiction novel with more heart than the rest and a serial killer to end all serial killers.
The Anniversary Man by R.J. Ellory (Orion)
Any one who knows me, knows that I don't go out of my way to read crime thrillers. With all the violence that surrounds us on a daily basis, I simply choose not to read books that delve into topics that I simply just long to escape from, even if it's just for a little while. (I read this when I took a bit of a break from reading young adult fiction over the past 3 weeks)

With that being said, I can honestly say that I can't for the life of me be sure why I ended up reading this book, but for what it's worth, this book ended up being one of the most surprising novels I've read this year so far (the other book surprising read being The Road to Absalom, which I'll post very soon). Not only that, but it's also one of the most intelligently written crime fiction novels that I've read in a while.

It's 1984 and 16 year old, young and impressionable John Costello meets the beautiful 17-year old Nadia.  The two connect instantly and for the brief time that they are together, John is the happiest he has been in a long time.

But as all things go, nothing lasts forever.
His life comes to an abrupt halt and is irrevocably and irrecoverably changed when he and Nadia become victims of a violently deranged serial killer known as The Hammer of God.

Nadia is brutally murdered while John miraculously survives.

22 years later a still broken, damaged and reclusive John (who has since withdrawn from the world and hides in his apartment for the most part) finds himself working for a newspapers as a crime researcher. 

Having been the victim of a heinous crime, there is no one who understands the behaviour and patterns of serial killers better than he does.

When a new spate of seemingly unrelated murder sprees start, Detective Ray Irving, one of New York's finest investigators is left feeling bewildered, frustrated and ready to enlist the help of anyone who knows anything that could assist the New York precinct with their case.

And who better than John Costello?

Despite Ray's suspicions, it's John who connects the dots and sets the ball rolling for what could be New York's biggest serial killer case they've had in the longest time. But, the book isn't called the Anniversary Man for no good reason and in a bitter twist of irony, every thing that John may have spent his whole life trying to survive through and overcome, puts him into the crossfire again and affects his life and those around him profoundly.

The Anniversary Man, is simply put, the best written crime fiction novel I've read in a long time. It's an unmitigated feast of a novel, employing good research and draws on everything that is psychologically terrifying about the dark and despicable side of human nature.

The book's prose is, simply put, like a danse macabre - the engaging writing flirting with the horrors of violent, but well-described murder scenes. The characters are solid, flawed and incredibly real and showcases, what I think many crime fiction novels lack: real, painful and tortured emotions.

I loved this book so much that I'm going to go hunting for more of his books.

Give it a read - if you're a fan of literary crime fiction novels, you won't be disappointed. I promise.  
My rating: 4/5

On a last note, my next review is going to be either Lauren Kate's Fallen or Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver. Not sure which to post first though. I think I'll try for both :)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: The Poison Diaries


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking  the Spine. The idea behind this meme is to highlight up and coming releases that we just can't wait to read. As a newbie blogger (on the blogger.com platform at least), this is my first meme (of hopefully many others) that I'll be participating in.

Anyway, I digress. Here's my choice of the week.

The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood with The Duchess of Northumberland

On sale date:
20 July 2010


In the right dose, everything is a poison. Even love . . .
Jessamine Luxton has lived all her sixteen years in an isolated cottage near Alnwick Castle, with little company apart from the plants in her garden. 

Her father, Thomas, a feared and respected apothecary, has taught her much about the incredible powers of plants: that even the most innocent-looking weed can cure -- or kill.

When Jessamine begins to fall in love with a mysterious boy who claims to communicate with plants, she is drawn into the dangerous world of the poison garden in a way she never could have imagined . . .

How fabulous does this book sound? And look at that gorgeous cover. I absolutely cannot wait for this book to be released.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Love between the covers

When I was young I distinctly remember having crushes on my favourite cartoon characters.

There was Vinnie, the white mouse (yes lovely book folk, I had a crush on a perpetually flirty anthropomorphic mouse) from The Biker Mice from Mars, Captain Planet (ok, you REALLY can stop laughing now), and Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid amongst many others.

But, while I no longer have crushes on those animated dolls of yesteryear (ok, ok, I still love Prince Eric), I have now transferred my lavish affections onto book characters instead.

So in the spirit of embarrassing confessions, I've decided to compile a list of the good, the bad, the dashing and the downright odd boys that make this book-loving heart of mine sing.

1.  Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice - He's arrogant, wealthy, and charismatically aloof. He's the kind of man that you'd hate at first sight because he's everything you wouldn't want in a man. And perversely enough most of us end up falling in love with these types because of that.

But, the thing with Mr Darcy is, is that  he's the best example of a first impression not always being the correct one and out of all the book characters I've come across, I have never seen a man bow down and humble himself before love like Mr Darcy does.

2. Damon Salvatore from The Vampire Diaries -  He's mean, bad to the bone, sports a pair of fangs and drinks human blood. Yet, for all his inhumanness, Damon hides a human exterior he doesn't show very often. I admit that I find his tv role very enthralling, but the Damon from the actual book series definitely leaves me bleeding for more. I'd choose him over his "good" brother Stefan any day. And best of all, he doesn't sparkle. 

3. Bruno -  the awkwardly sweet chef from The Food of Love - I've always had a soft spot for the underdog and Bruno is no exception to the rule. When he's forced to play chef to his more pompous and arrogant waiter friend (for the sake of a girl), I couldn't help but immediately root for him.

His chronic awkwardness simply made him all the more endearing to me.  Besides, with cooking skills like his - why would you want the hot stud whose whole being relies on the talent of others to get him the girl?

4. Atticus Finch - To Kill a Mockingbird - I have to admit, this one is a weird choice, but after going around and checking what other people had to say, I was surprised to see that many people had him on their book crush list too.

Yes, the man's old enough to be my father, but anyone who goes against the system to stand up for their beliefs and fight for someone's rights regardless of the cost involved, receives my undying devotion. It's as simple as that.

5.  Eric Northman from The Sookie Stackhouse novels - Yes, it would appear that I have a bit of a vamp obsession, but so what?  If I can crush on cartoon characters, then I certainly have no qualms about crushing on mythical ones too.  And this time around, the vamp in this case is Eric Northman.

He's blond, he's a Viking vampire and he's far more powerful than Bill could ever hope to be. And this is the case in both the book and the tv series - although True Blood portrays Bill as the one with a far more "good" character in him than Eric.

Personally I like both Erics, but I reckon you should read the books to get to know a different side to Eric that you're probably used to seeing on tv. You won't be disappointed.

6. Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby. - I've got a real soft spot for Jay. I can't help it, but when someone whose flawed personality is based around a desperate need to win the love of a materialistic and shallow woman who has very little capacity to return any sincere emotion, the tragedy of it just pulls at my heartstrings.

Here we have a man whose lifestyle is obscenely ostentatious, and who believes that through flaunting his assets, he can win the love of the flaky Daisy Buchanan. Never once does he consider that he's simply chasing a mirage. I love him because he is so tragic and because tragic characters have far more interesting layers than Gary Stu character types.

I could go on and on about Lestat, Dorian Gray, Rhett Butler and Edward Rochester, but I think I've embarrassed myself enough for now.

Disclaimer: This column of mine originally appeared on the website for which I work, but I figured that I'd post it up here too. I realise that I did a mash up of different characters, but I think I'm going to do another one that focuses on YA fiction characters - that one should hopefully be interesting.

Anyway, I'm interested in hearing all about your book crushes. Let me know by posting a comment and waxing lyrical about who makes your heart beat faster. :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Book review: Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story

Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story
If Cinderella's fairy godmother was anything like the godmother in this book, then I'd have rather stayed at home and not gone to the ball… Oh wait…

The Secret Cinderella Story by Carolyn Turgeon (Headline Review)
We all know how the original Cinderella story goes…

A beautiful but destitute girl is forced into servitude by her wicked stepmother and stepsisters until her fairy godmother steps in to save the day by sending her to the ball (after an epic transformation process) - all so that Prince Charming can take one look at her, fall in love, and spend the rest of the story looking for the girl who misplaced her glass slipper.

Of course, in the original version “... they all lived happily ever after."

Ha! Not in this story though…

Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story  is a modern take on the Cinderella story, told from the Fairy Godmother's point of view.

The story focuses on Lilian, the fairy godmother who is banished to the mortal realm, destined to spend centuries surviving in a world that is strange and bereft of magic to her; all because of one desperate and selfish act.

Now stuck in a modern world, the feather-winged fairy, stripped of her former beauty, spends most of her days languishing in a book shop owned by the somewhat eccentric and lonely George.  When a fiery young red-haired hair salon owner walks in one day, Lilian sees an opportunity to redeem herself, in the hopes of returning to the fairy realm once again.

Lovers of the classic tale might consider this take on Cinderella to be rather blasphemous, considering that the story is actually supposed to revolve around her happiness.

I have to confess that when I first took this book, I assumed there would be more of an emphasis on the fairy folklore, but was disappointed when the story was more about the role reversals of Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother than anything else.

I also found Lilian's character to be rather remorseless and selfish - which is not something I would expect from a fairy godmother supposedly paying for her sins. Still, I don't think it's all that unbearable - it's one of those books that you should probably read when you really don't have anything else to.

My rating: 2.5 /5

Review originally appeared on the w24's book club

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Book review: Sepulchre by Kate Mosse



Ok, this book is not a new book, but I'm posting this review before I post a review of this
author's latest book so that I can link back in my next post. Anyway, today's book review is a book written by Kate Mosse.

She's one of my favourite authors and also one of the few who really manages to capture the true essence of a historical novel combined with strong elements of a gothic romance.

Sepulchre


Combining elements of history, mythology and a dash of gothic romanticism, Sepulchre is a gripping novel that parallels the lives of the past and present.

Sepulchre by Kate Mosse (Orion)
Set in Carcassonne, south west of France, Sepulchre employs the use of a dual-narrative structure in which the lives of Leonie Vernier, a young Parisian woman living in the 1800s, and Meredith Martin, a young American researcher doing research on a project in the 21st century, intertwine with one another.

In the historical section of the book, Leonie Vernier, a 17 year old girl bored and stifled by life in Paris, along with her brother Anatole, accept an invitation from their widowed aunt to exchange life in Paris for idyllic bliss at the La Domaine de la Cade mansion, in Carcassonne.

Of course, all is not as it seems and things soon start unravelling for the fated siblings when they arrive at the mysterious Domaine de la Cade - a house whose legacy is shrouded in mystery and rumours of ill-fated happenings. 

As Anatole's personal drama starts to unveils itself, Leonie discovers a dangerous book, leading her to an abandoned sepulchre and a strange set of tarot cards which may or may not hold the key to the mystery shrouding Domaine de la Cade.

Present day October 2007, finds Meredith Martin, a young American scholar in France where, while doing research on her family history and Charles Debussey, she stumbles across the Domaine de la Cade.

Inadvertently she becomes immersed in a tragic story of love, a strange deck of tarot cards and discovers that the power of an unquiet soul can continue to haunt a place long after it's body has left the grounds of earth.

If you're a huge fan of gothic fiction, then you'll really this book. It's not really aimed at young adults, but the same breathy atmospheric elements you'll find in books like  Lauren Kate's Fallen are there. It's certainly a book that I could read over and over again - which is surprising because when I first came across this book, my first thought was to ignore it!

After all, the cover is definitely not the greatest cover I've seen. Thankfully, Kate's ability to make a dual-narrative structure work so well, as well as the fact that her writing is just so beautifully descriptive has had me hooked on her books ever since.

My rating: 4/5


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Book review: Season of the Witch


Season of the Witch
Prepare to be seduced by a gothic novel of intrigue, murder, love, the art of memory and remote viewing...
Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert (Bantam Books)
It's very easy to mistake this book for just another unoriginal gothic sci-fi novel. After all, the synopsis on the book jacket seems to mention concepts that have been explored way too many times before. 

That, coupled with the pretty, but rather romanc-y book cover makes this one of those gems that people will pass by simply because this book, at first glance, doesn't necessarily scream "read me". (Ok, I used a different cover image in an earlier review of this book. This cover is actually quite beautiful.)

The basic premise behind the story revolves around Gabriel Blackstone.

A hacker by trade, he makes a living (a very well-paid one) by stealing information and corporate company secrets for the competition. What makes him unusual is that he's a very skilled remote viewer, meaning that he is able to scan people's thoughts and enter the minds of others  (A process referred to in the book as slamming the ride).

When an ex-lover of his approaches Gabriel to help locate her missing stepson, last seen in the company of two beautiful sisters, he is forced to use his gift (albeit very reluctantly) in search of any clues that will help him solve the mystery of the missing stepson.

Soon he finds himself entangled in the lives of Morrighan and Minnaloushe Monk, the beautiful sisters of Monk house, who as it turns out, are direct descendents of John Dee, a well-known mathematician, astrologer and occultist.

Against his better judgement Gabriel is soon swept into a world beneath a world, seduced by a house of a million doors, troubled but intrigued by the symbols in the Monk house and caught in the spell of two hypnotic sisters, one of them, who he is sure, is a ruthless murderer.  But which one is it? And how to stop himself from falling losing his objectivity when he is already falling in love with one of them?

Season of the witch is a story about memory and magic. It unfurls worlds where the occult meets reality, where mysticism and symbolism is more than just a passing fancy and where alchemy of the soul becomes more than just a passing obsession.

What I loved about this book is that the author's writing seduces and pulls the reader into a world impossible to escape from. The blend of erotic imagery and the vivid descriptions of the mystical spins a web that one just can't escape from. The twists and turns in this book will also leave you reeling.

South African author, Natasha Mostert truly manages to lend a timeless feel to the scenes at Monk House. Added to that is the fact that she effortlessly weaves historical references to alchemy, the art of memory, practitioners of magic and the concept of remote viewing, thereby making this book more than just another average novel exploring clich├ęd concepts of the occult.

Her latest novel is called Keeper of Light. I'm going to try and hunt this book down because if her writing is anything like this in her latest book, then it's sure to be as good, if not better, as this one is.

My rating:
4/5 stars

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sympathy for the murderer

A while back I read a book called The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel. It's a true story based on a Chinese princess who becomes a spy for the Japanese. As someone who loves reading novels about the history of Chinese and Japanese dynasties, I relished the thought of reading this book.

The gorgeous cover also had me sold.

I started reading eagerly, but stopped halfway through when I realised something significant: Eastern Jewel, the book's central character, was probably one of the most detestable characters imaginable.

I hated her so much that I actually couldn't care less whether or not she got her happy ending.  She was bad to the bone and showed a lack of humanity that I found rather disconcerting.

So I dumped her. But that got me thinking…

Just how important is the likability of a character in the book? Do you have to like the character to love the book?
 
I don't necessarily think so, but I do believe that a main character should have some kind of quality that we can identify with or at least relate to. I'm definitely not saying that a character should be flawless, but for me, it's simply a question of how much humanity the character still has left within that keeps me glued to the pages.

Not only that, but it's also about how much I can experience with the character through his or her journey. Once you stop caring what happens to the character, the book simply doesn't become worth reading anymore.
I certainly remember that one book I really loved despite hating the character was White Oleander. Haven't read that in a while, but I think after this, I'll probably go and see if I can get my hands on a copy of the book again.

It turns out, I'm not alone in this.

One of my regular readers had this to say about book characters: "Never mind finding a quality to identify with in the character of the book... I become the character in the book. I cannot read a book from a distance, I simply have to become entrenched in it.

"I picture the characters and visualise the scenes. I feel their anger, pain and joy. When I"m finished with the book, I simply can't pick another one up immediately. It's almost as though I need time to let the characters of the previous one go."

But, that's just my opinion. What do you think?

Is the likability of the character important? And which character in a book have you hated so much that you couldn't finish the book?

Notes:
This column of mine originally appeared as a newsletter column on our women24 website in our book club news section.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Review: Hush, Hush


Hush, Hush
A teenage girl unwittingly finds herself caught up in an ancient struggle between fallen angels
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Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (Simon and Schuster)
The release of Twilight a few years ago, has opened up a portal to the paranormal genre. Never before has there been such a spate of books on vampires, werewolves, fairies and any mythological creature imaginable.

Hush, hush is no exception to the rule. 

Except this time, there are, refreshingly enough, no vampires or werewolves. (Not that I have a problem with those books at all - it was just great to branch out into a different paranormal book with a different subject focus for a change)

Welcome to the world of the Fallen. It's a world high school student, Nora Grey finds herself unwittingly being caught up in.

It's been almost a year since her Dad's murder and all Nora longs to do is move on and focus on her school work. She is the quintessential good girl - always responsible, always maintains good grades and always lets her mom know where she is.

Boys? They're rather unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Well, at least until bad boy Patch enters the scene.

When Nora meets Patch, she instantly knows something about him is off-the-chart dangerous. He's cocky, borders on arrogance, is compellingly good looking and seems to be everywhere Nora is. Especially when bad things happen.

He's lethal, secretive and knows more about her than any normal human being should, and every now and then does things that make Nora question whether or not he's even human.

With so many vamp romances and Edward Cullen carbon copies out there, it was a refreshing change to come across Hush, Hush. You can't help but fall in love with Patch's character.  And despite people claiming similarities between them, He's not like Edward Cullen at all.

He's bad to the bone, doesn't have good intentions (at least for the first three quarters of the novel) and doesn't even flinch at the thought of scaring the girl who may or may not be in love with him. 

Nora's also no limp Bella Swan. She's brave, smart, independent and rather ballsy in the face of the very inhuman danger she has to face. One of my favourite things about the books is the well-described tug-of-war attraction between Nora and Patch.

Her fear of him is very real, and the more she's around him, the more warning bells sound off. Yet, perversely enough, the more she tries to pull away, the deeper she's pulled in.

All in all, I think Bella Fitzpatrick has written an enticingly different novel where the characters are infinitely likeable and romance and danger aren't just black and white, but all the shades of grey in between.

My rating:
4/5

Notes: I actually read this book back in January and featured this book in our book club section on our website. 

On a final note, I'm seriously looking forward to reading Crescendo, the sequel to Hush, Hush. Unfortunately, the book is only being released in November this year, but in the meantime, a cover of the book has been released. I'm sure most of you must have seen it by now, but if you haven't, you can have a look over here.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

An introduction into the world of a bookaholic

My name is Tammy and I am a book slut.

For as long as I can remember, I've always harboured a deep and abiding love and passion for reading. From my early toddler days (which were punctuated with me being regaled with stories from Aesop's Classic fables to Peter Rabbit and Winnie the Pooh, amongst others) to the beginning of Junior and Middle School where the introduction to the Sweet Valley High series quickly became an addiction.

I read with the kind of voraciousness that inspired (and still inspires) awe amongst the people that are closest to me.

Many people don't understand it, but to me, books have always been my unfailingly loyal companion when no one else was around. After all, I was the fat, awkward and lonely kid who barely had any friends, and as a result, often found herself turning to books to help me get through the loneliness.

 What started out as therapy for the broken-hearted, soon became a raging love affair that burns brighter than ever today - and the knowledge that I could (and still can) escape into a world filled with art, magic and intriguing characters, only served to enhance that love.

Why I'm here
Well, I've been lurking around on various book blogs and figured that it seems like so much fun, why not just join. After all, being a spectator is not always fun, especially when it comes to all things book related.

I work as an online book club writer for a women's website and write monthly electronic newsletters in which we promote and review ten books per month and host a giveaway in which our subscribers can stand a chance of winning our monthly top 10 books as well as a case of wine.

A lot of the reviews and articles that I've written and will be writing and posting here, appears and will appear on the website for which I work. I will make a point of stating this at the end of each review or book related post, lest anyone thinks that I'm plagiarising.

I'll also try and host a competition on this blog every once in a while as I'm a big believer in sharing the book love.

Regarding reviews, I tend to read from a variety of different genres (although, I've developed a deep love for Young Adult fiction of late) and won't stick to just posting a review of one type of genre. In between, I'll definitely be participating in the weekly book blogger memes (they seem like such fun to do) and writing different features about books.

Also, some of my reviews may not be the most recent book releases out there, but I'm ok with that too. I'm not in any form of competition to review the hottest and the latest books immediately, even though my grubby little book paws often desire the latest books.

In between, I'll be doing some personal posts as well and am planning on incorporating this blog with another love of mine that ties in considerably with this blog.

But, more on that next time, I'll post my first review soon.

Until the next post