Thursday 25 October 2012

Devil's Bargain - Rachel Caine

Devil’s Bargain – Rachel Caine

Pages: 331
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Release Date: 5th October 2012
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

Playing by the psychic underworld’s rules has a cost.

Jazz Callender’s whole life just got turned upside down. Her friend Ben’s been convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and Jazz is determined to clear his name, even if it means enlisting the help of dark forces.

Enter James, a stranger with a mysterious offer. If Jazz pledges to work for The Cross Society, a shadowy, secret organisation, he’ll help her save Ben.

But as she’s thrust into a world of psychic powers and dangerous magic, Jazz isn’t just bargaining for her friend’s freedom. She’s bargaining for her soul too.

And how high a price is she willing to pay?

Those of you who’ve been readers of this blog for a while will know that my love for Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampires series is undying. Devil’s Bargain did nothing to lower my obsession level.

One of the strongest aspects of Caine’s novels is her heroines. She really knows how to write a character who’s completely bad-ass and who has you routing for her from the very beginning. Jazz Callender is up there with the best of them. She’s spunky and brave and can kick some serious ass. But Jazz also has a vulnerable side and she’s a bit of an underdog really.

James Borden sees all of these things in Jazz and more. I was shipping them from the moment he walked into the bar, head to toe in leathers. They have some seriously crackling chemistry and there were some very intense scenes that had me begging for them to finally, finally kiss! Alas, no. It took around three hundred pages for that to happen...

I have to admit that even though I championed Jazz and Borden from the beginning, I wasn’t always sure I could trust him until Jazz finally relented and began to trust him herself. In fact, Devil’s Bargain is the kind of novel where I rarely knew who to trust and what to believe which is always fun. The whole premise of a sketchy sounding company dealing in psychics, fate and destiny is very unusual and Rachel Caine kept the intrigue up throughout the novel.

Devil’s Bargain is the first of Rachel Caine’s adult books that I’ve read and it definitely won’t be the last. It was everything that I’ve come to love and expect from her: bad ass ladies, gorgeous guys, non-stop action, high stakes and captivating and original mythology.

I loved Devil’s Bargain and I’m really looking forward to the release of its companion, Devil’s Due.

Thanks to Mira for providing me a copy for review.


Tuesday 23 October 2012

The Wolf Princess - Cathryn Constable

The Wolf Princess – Cathryn Constable

Pages: 273
Publisher: Chicken House
Release Date: 4th October 2012
Edition: UK paperback, unsolicited review copy

Alone in the world, Sophie dreams of being someone special. But she could never have imagined this...

On a school trip to Russia, Sophie and her two friends find themselves abandoned on a train. They are rescued by the glamorous Princess Anna Volkonskaya, who takes them to her winter palace and mesmerises them with stories of lost diamonds and a tragic past.

But as night falls and wolves prowl, Sophie discovers more than dreams in the crumbling palace of secrets...

The Wolf Princess is a magical, gripping and intriguing debut from Cathryn Constable.

This novel has made me desperate to go to Russia. It seemed like an utterly magical place. Piles and piles of thick, soft snow, bitter cold and crumbling palaces next to forests filled with white wolves – I mean, what more could you want? You know what else captured me? The trains. I know, worrying isn’t it, but the trip that Sophie, Delphine and Marianne took through Russia on the sleeper train reminded me of The Polar Express and I just wanted to be there. I think that Cathryn Constable really captured the essence of Russia and I love how evocative the sometimes stilted English of the Princess and Dr Starova is, I heard their accents perfectly.

Russia to me is a mysterious country and that preconception perfectly fit the tension and atmosphere of The Wolf Princess. I never knew who to trust, who had Sophie’s best interests at heart or what on earth anyone was up to. I felt constantly unsettled and on the edge of my seat. Occasionally it did frustrate me that I couldn’t lay my allegiance with anyone bar Sophie, but on the most part I enjoyed the mystery.

Though I loved the setting and the mystery, Sophie was the highlight of The Wolf Princess for me. She is the perfect fantasy adventure heroine: an unloved orphan who is perfectly ordinary with only extraordinary best friends. Though I don’t think that Marianne and Delphine were explored enough. Marianne was quiet and so far in the background that writing this I’m not even sure if Marianne is actually her name and as for Delphine, I hated her. She’s selfish and spoilt and she just really rubbed me up the wrong way.

I really enjoyed The Wolf Princess, though it didn’t blow me away like I expected it to, and I’ll be interested to see what Cathryn Constable comes up with next.

Thank you to Chicken House for providing me with a review copy.


Sunday 21 October 2012

In My Mailbox 133

This meme was started by Kristi of The Story Siren who was inspired by Alea from Pop Culture Junkie. Check out their blogs for more information. All summaries are from the book jackets unless otherwise stated.

For review:

Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman

Callum is a nought – an inferior white citizen in a society controlled by the black Crosses.

Sephy is a Cross – and the daughter of one of the most powerful, ruthless men in the country.

In their hostile, violent world, noughts and Crosses simply don’t mix. But when Sephy and Callum’s childhood friendship grows into passionate love, they’re determined to find a way to be together.

And then the bomb explodes...

I got all four books in this series from the lovelies at Random House as (please don’t kill me) I’ve never read them before. It’s shamefuul, I know. I don’t want to write up the other three in case of spoilers!


If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen that I had a seminar hosted by David Almond at university on Friday and after one of the most inspirational hours of my left, I was left with a hankering to buy books. I did!

My Name is Mina – David Almond

Mina’s a rebel.
She can’t be controlled and she won’t fit in.
People say she’s weird. Some say she’s just crazy.
But all she wants is to be free, to be happy, and to be herself.

One night, as she sits in the moonlight, she picks up an empty notebook and begins to write.

And here is her journal, Mina’s life in Mina’s own words: her stories and dreams, experiences and thoughts, her scribblings and nonsense, poems and songs.
Her vivid account of her vivid life.

The wonderful prequel to Skellig by the winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the Whitbread Award and the Carnegie Medal.

I’ve been meaning to buy this for years so after David’s seminar seemed like the perfect time. I can’t wait to get lost in this.

Raw Blue – Kirsty Eagar

I have a clear view of the surf and I feel an electric charge. It’s a glitter skin day. The ocean is a vivid emerald colour and the wind ruffles the wave faces so that they shatter in the sunlight like glass.

Carly might be living but it's not much of a life, working the late shifts in a kitchen in Manly, renting alone and trying to get by without being noticed. The only time she feels alive is when she’s out in the ocean, where she can forget about everything – forget her own dark secret – and enjoy the moment.

But Carly can’t surf forever.

After Carla’s raving review and Non’s endless praise, I knew I had to get my hands on this. I’m expecting an extraordinary book.

That’s all from me this week! I hope you all got some lovelies as well.


Tuesday 16 October 2012

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares - Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares – Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Pages: 260
Publisher: Mira Ink
Release Date: 5th October 2012
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

Other Titles by these Authors: Nick & Norah’s Infinate Playlist, Noami & Ely’s No-Kiss List

I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.

At the urge of her lucky-in-love brother, sixteen-year-old Lily has left a red notebook full of dares on her favourite bookshop shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept.

Curious, snarky Dash isn’t one to back down from a challenge – and the Book of Dares is the perfect thing to keep him occupied this Christmas.

As they send each other on a snowbound scavenger hunt across Manhattan, they’re falling for each other on paper. But finding out it their real selves share their on-page chemistry could be their biggest dare yet.

I’ve been after this book since I first heard about it in 2010 when it was first published in the US and fell in love with the premise. I’m relieved to say that Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares definitely lived up to the reviews and my expectations.

With split narration novels I often end up looking forward to reading certain character’s perspectives more than others, even if I think I like them all equally. This didn't happen in Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares at all. Dash and Lily are so different, but equally as unique and awesome and it was impossible to choose one over the other. Dash is wordy and pretentious, but snarly and sarcastic with a dry sense of humour and I pretty much fell head over heels for him really. Lily is sweet, odd and loves Christmas so much that her enthusiasm leaks through the pages. After I finished reading this book all I wanted to do was watch Christmas movies all day – don’t worry, I didn’t. Well, not yet anyway...

I really do love the story that Rachel Cohn and David Levithan created. It’s fairly rare to find something so unique and different in contemporary novels and this is something I’ve never come across before. The idea of two people falling in love via books and words is something that makes me all kinds of happy. The way they emotionally and intellectually reveal themselves via the red Moleskine is just perfect. I love it.

As you can probably tell, I adored Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares so now I need to get my hands on Cohn and Levithan’s other two novels.

A massive thank you to Mira Ink for providing me with a review copy.


Thursday 11 October 2012

Shadows - Ilsa J Bick

Shadows – Ilsa J Bick

Pages: 518
Publisher: Quercus
Release Date: 27th September 2012
Edition: UK proof, for review

Other Titles by this Author: Ashes

From Quercus: Alex has escaped from Rule – but what horrors face her in the ravaged outside world?

Tom is safe – but what will he risk to save Alex?

Chris – how much does he really know about the terrible darkness of Rule? And what are his true feelings for Alex?

Ellie – where is she?

The terrifying follow-up to the hugely popular Ashes.

Ashes was one of my favourite books from last year so I was beyond excited when I got hold of a copy of Shadows. And although Shadows was a little different to its predecessor, it was still brilliant.

Before I began reading this I was lucky enough to stumble upon a link to recap of Ashes that Isla J Bick had written and posted on her website. I have to admit, that was invaluable. Without that I would have been totally lost – it’s been over a year since I read Bick’s debut and it was a full-on story. if you don't have time for a re-read, which I didn’t, I’d highly recommend this recap as you’ll likely be lost in Shadows, I know I would have been. Isla J Bick doesn’t play around with summaries, she just dives straight back in, virtually where we left Ashes.

The stakes for everyone were raised in Shadows, especially Alex. There wasn’t a moment in the entire novel where she was safe, she was always in mortal peril, and Tom was in danger most of the time too. On the back of this, there was a sense of terror, foreboding and a constant tension running through the story that kept me furiously turning the pages, the short, punchy chapters only amping up the pressure.

Some horrible and terrifying truths were revealed about Rule and the people with the most power. There were also strange and deeply worrying developments surrounding the Changed that brings about some fascainting new characters and some interesting developments that mess things around and plant some foundations for the final book.

I’m sorry for such a vague review, but I really don't want to spoil a single aspect of Shadows; it’s brilliant! I can’t wait for the final instalment of this trilogy which I just discovered is called Monsters.

Thank you to Quercus for providing me with a review copy.


Monday 8 October 2012

Blog Tour: My Russian Influence by Cathryn Constable (The Wolf Princess)

I’m very pleased to welcome Cathryn Constable who’s debut novel, The Wolf Princess, was published by Chicken House on October 4th, to So Many Books, So Little Time as part of her blog tour.

Over to Cathryn!

When I started writing The Wolf Princess, I had never visited Russia... I didn’t know if I’d ever visit Russia... A trip seemed as likely as getting through the back of the wardrobe and into Narnia.

So I was a bit stuck, because Russia kept climbing in to anything I tried to write and then I would have to stop, because I felt I couldn’t write about it because I’d never been. That wretched phrase... ‘Write what you know’ became quite an inhibition for me... I think I wasted quite a lot of time trying to keep my book within the limits of my knowledge and experience rather than my imagination.

But of course, you can ‘know’ things in many different ways. So I decided to use what I ‘knew’ even if it didn’t involve a plane ticket and a visa.

I had read a lot of Russian novels... and I started doing searches on Google for things like ‘abandoned Russian palaces’.

So I found plenty of images... like this one...

And of course, there was the interior in Dr Zhivago...

I suppose what I wanted in the Volkonsky Winter Palace was some mix of Russian-ness with that Miss Haversham vibe in Great Expectations... the version with Michael York as Pip... I adored her house!

There was also a really good website called ‘Nostalgic Glass’... I think the photographer went to various abandoned buildings and somehow got inside and took amazing photographs... One of the completely desolate buildings he visited has, I think, since been taken over and completely renovated as a summer residence for Putin...

I found a couple of wonderful books, too... Petersburg Perspectives with photography by Yury Molodkovets was a fabulous visual reference, even though my book isn’t set in St Petersburg. Still, there were plenty of photographs of grand Russian-ness and it helped me to think of the scale of Russia... Then there was Life on the Russian Country Estate by Priscilla Roosevelt, and a wonderful set of images in St Petersburg by Orloff Shvidkovsky... Some of these I photocopied and put on my pinboard, or else I would just have the books lying around, open. It meant, in a way, that I could choose the mood of the setting rather than remember places I had actually seen. In this case, I think it was more helpful that I didn’t go to Russia until I had a clear sense of what I was writing about.

I watched Russian films, too. The Irony of Fate is an especial favourite... It’s a deliciously bonkers film about a love affair that happens when a man believes he’s come home to his box of a Soviet flat and finds a rather beautiful blonde has moved in. However, he’s in the wrong city having got drunk with his friends and accidentally been put on the plane instead of someone else. After a lot of misunderstandings, and singing of songs, they realise that fate has brought them together.

There is no direct sense of it in my book, although I suppose I did take something of that Blonde Russian Beauty for Anna Feodorovna. And I always love stories about people who get lost...

I also watched, so many times, the film My Tender and Affectionate Beast... based on a short story by Anton Chekhov... I loved the quality of the snow!

And I watched a really good Russian version of Anna Karenina on YouTube. YouTube is amazing for getting all sorts of snippets, although it doesn’t necessarily feel like ‘work’ when you’re watching such things at ten o’clock on a Thursday morning...

Also, I read Journey into the Mind’s Eye by Lesley Blanch which is such an amazing book for making you fall in love with Russia... And I had an old cook book from the 70s which was fabulous... I can make wonderful borscht (a bright pink soup made from beetroots)!
I did eventually visit St Petersburg... but in summer... it was 30 degrees and it didn’t ever properly get dark, so it was very different from the snowiness and daytime twilight of The Wolf Princess.

You can go up to the roof of a rather smart hotel on the Fontanka and drink chilled ‘champanskoye’ at 2am. They wrap you up in swansdown blankets and you seem to be in the company of the statues on the roof of the buildings around the Hermitage. It’s thrilling.

Thank you to Cathryn and Chicken House for a wonderful post!