Monday, 26 September 2011

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

This review is very spoiler heavy. The ending is talked about. I tried to review the book without spoilers but I just couldn’t get my emotions across as I wanted to.
I would recommend only reading this review if you have already read the book.


I first came across this title about a year ago when a blogger that I was following at the time read it for Hallowe’en and rated it as one of their favourite books of the year. It got put on a back burner of “maybe I’ll look into that one day” until my GoodReads group, Basically Books, considered it for their monthly read (it got degraded to buddy read, but no matter). So I found a copy of it for a fiver and figured I’d give it a go. It’s got all those shining reviews, right? There has to be something good about it… The fact that Twilight, Blue Bloods, Graceling, etc., all also have hundreds of shining reviews seems to have escaped me.

From just reading the synopsis, I thought it sounded rather like the literary version of M. Night Shyamalan’s film, The Village, except with zombies that invade the village instead of weird scary demon creatures. I figured I couldn’t go wrong.

Presentation: I have the British paperback version. It’s an average-sized YA book with relatively large font that is well spaced. There are 309 pages broken down into 36 chapters so the chapters aren’t particularly long.

Story: Mary has lived her whole life in her isolated village in the middle of the Forest of Hands and Teeth. They tell her that there is nothing beyond the village, only Unconsecrated (zombies) that hunger for human flesh. But her mother has always told her stories of life before the Unconsecrated, of a wide expanse of water where all you can see is more water – the ocean – and Mary clings to the hope that there has to be more out there than just her village.

When Mary’s mother is bitten, doomed to become an Unconsecrated herself, she chooses life as a zombie over death as a human. Mary’s brother, Jed, blames her for allowing their mother to make that choice and casts her out of the house. She is taken in by the Sisterhood – followers of God who run the village – where she is to become one of the Sisters as no one has asked for the right to marry her. She discovers that the Sisterhood has been keeping secrets, secrets that doom the village.

***Repeat WARNING***
This is your last chance to turn back. Spoilers ahead.
***Repeat WARNING***

Thoughts and impressions: Everything started out fine, if a little slow. There’s quite a bit of background information given in the first half of the book. You get to know Mary a bit. You’re presented with her world, her village and their customs, and some of the history. You meet the requisite love triangle – brothers Harry (who wants Mary) and Travis (whom Mary wants) – and the best friend, Cass. You see the Cathedral and the Sisterhood from the inside. You overhear whispered conversations that hint that there’s more to their world than they’re letting on. You find out that those paths the Sisters always said never lead anywhere must actually lead somewhere because a girl came down them. You discover that the Sisters must have fed this girl to the Unconsecrated because the next time she is seen, she’s on the other side of the fence and she’s moving fast – she’s not a normal zombie, she’s a speedy zombie.

But why is she speedy? you ask. That answer is not given. What has the Sisterhood to do with the Unconsecrated? you ask. You’re never told. What’s with the Bible in the locked room with scribblings in the margins? you want to know. That is something that you will have to keep wondering.

I don’t mind when a book does not answer all of the questions put forward. Really, I don’t. But some of the questions ought to be answered. I know why we don’t get the answers here – Mary doesn’t know them herself and after the Sisters sacrifice Gabrielle (the outsider) to the zombies and then get everyone in the village killed, it becomes evident that that could well be information that has died with the Sisterhood.  The story then becomes a quest for survival. It could easily have taken a different, and in my opinion more interesting, route and become a quest for answers – but the pull of the ocean is too strong. Every story should answer at least some of the major questions it poses, but in this case I get the feeling that it’s all just going to be relegated to sequels – at least I hope the sequels answer these questions! Not that I’ll be reading them.

So Mary finds herself in the fenced off paths with six other survivors of the village massacre, with no idea where they’re going or if they’ll survive. Mary becomes absolutely obsessed with Gabrielle (who follows them, bashing into the fence and trying to reach them, until she ‘burns herself out’) and the clue she left scratched into the window pane in the Cathedral – “Gabrielle XIV” (I think it was XIV, I could be wrong). So they wander around this maze with no clue where they’re going, frequently hitting dead ends and having to turn back and slowly running out of food and water. Mary gets annoyed with Harry for wanting to marry her when she wanted to marry Travis and he’s expressed reciprocal feelings; she gets mad at Travis for not coming to save her from marriage to Harry when he’d said he would; she gets mad at her brother for bringing along his infected wife and eventually coldly announces to everyone as a (very) low blow to her brother in a fight that Beth is, indeed, infected and Jed will have to behead his wife, Harry and Travis their sister. Then she wanders off on her own, feeling a little guilty but not at all ashamed of her actions and eventually makes her way back there with the information that the paths are marked by weird letters in a pattern she doesn’t understand. This is followed by more of Mary getting annoyed with Harry, the party coming close to starvation, and then Mary becoming even more one-track-minded when they discover a fence that reads “XIV” and she equates it to Gabrielle’s origins. She leads them all into a village full of zombies without thinking and they get separated – Mary and Travis end up in a house together, the other 4 ended up in a treetop “village”. Everybody has food and water, all is good.

But it’s not because Mary can’t be happy with anything! She’s in a house, safe, with the boy she claims to love and who loves her too. What does she do? She avoids him and spends her time staring at the other four in their treetop safe haven! She becomes obsessed with being remembered and not forgotten. Her old fascination for stories of the ocean rears its ugly head again (now that she no longer has Gabrielle to be obsessed with) and she takes out all her fears and frustrations of the one she supposedly loves but doesn’t want to spend time with.

Eventually things go wrong, as they inevitably would, and the zombies get into the house. So while Travis is fashioning an escape route for them, what does Mary do? She looks at photos of the world before the Unconsecrated, reads a book of poems and tries to distract Travis while he tries desperately to save her life. To make things worse, this is the second time she’s been a useless lump of lard in such a situation! During the attack on the village, Harry is busy ransacking their cottage for anything that may help them survive. What does Mary do? She lies in bed then gets up and puts her skirt and blouse on. Seriously? Seriously?! Mary could not survive on her own and it’s only because of the blind love these two men feel towards her (of which she is not worthy) that she’s even made it this far.

So Travis sends her across to the others then follows himself, but is attacked by Unconsecrated and for a moment it’s a bit touch and go as to whether or not he’ll make it. Then he comes and speaks with Mary and she pretty much tells him that he’s not enough for her, that she wants the ocean. Bitch. As if a few waves could ever make up for being loved and cared for. The ocean won’t protect you, it won’t make sure you get away from a zombie attack – in fact, if Gabrielle’s story is to be believed, it’s more likely to dump a bunch of zombies on you than protect you from them. And yet she still walks away from him.

Cue big fire forcing them to try to escape back to the fenced off paths. Travis, already wounded from a nasty break to his leg at the start of the story and then the zombie attack on the house just recently, takes a rope, leaps down and tries to make it to the paths so he can secure the rope and provide them with a means of getting across to the corridor without having to wade through zombies. He manages to secure the rope, but being already wounded, the Unconsecrated do enough damage to turn him. Too little, too late, Mary realises that he would have been enough but he’s still dead - well, undead until she slams a scythe into his neck - he still gave his life for her. This is where I admit that I cried at this point. I know that really there’s not all that much to Travis’s character – he stays quite shallow throughout the story but I view this as being in part because Mary does not allow him to become deeper. We don’t know why she loves him, we don’t know why he loves her – but this is written from the first person perspective and thus everything is only shown as Mary sees it, and Mary only chooses to see how Travis cares for her. Despite him being shallow, I liked him. By this time I did not like Mary.

She doesn’t do anything to redeem herself. In fact, in her blind obsession she manages to get Jed killed as well. Or we at least are led to assume he’s dead. He falls into a river full of zombies, but then so does she and she survives. His corpse is never found and I was half-hoping that he would just randomly reappear in the sequel, having miraculously survived his trip down the river. Then I discovered that the sequel is about Mary’s daughter Gabry (and the obsession with Gabrielle lives on!) so I lost all hope of that ever happening. The remaining 3 companions are just left in the forest - Lord knows what happens to them. But Mary gets to go and float in the sea, to taste the salt, to see the never-ending expanse of water – even if the beach is full of recently decapitated zombies. So Mary gets her happy ending. She doesn’t deserve it! She’s a selfish child who has got everyone who ever cared about her killed throughout the course of the novel. She deserved to die as well. She did not deserve to fulfil her dream of reaching the ocean.

Let me point out at this point that I have nothing against novels with bittersweet endings. The Book Thief – I cried, I hated the author for what he did (even though he announced that he was going to do it right at the very beginning of the novel) but I loved the story and recommend it to everyone. The High Lord? I cried, I hated the author for what she did, but I loved the story and still snap up everything she writes. The Saga of Darren Shan? I cried, I hated the author for what he did, but I still loved the saga as a whole. But this one? I hated the author for what she did and it brought me to the point of hating the book as well. In all the other cases, the characters had gone through such trials, so many ups and downs. Yes, they’d made mistakes at times, but they were presented as being so very human in so many ways that I knew the deaths weren’t their fault but caused by outside influences – be those bombs, fights against the enemy or whatever else. In this case, the deaths were caused by Mary’s one track mind and her obsession with getting to the ocean. She was a horrible, horrible character.

It is very rare that I get so worked up about a book that I disliked like this. It is very rare that I ever feel hatred towards a fictional character – I mean, they’re fictional, they’re not worth it. But in this case? I can’t help myself. It is stronger than I am.

Style: Fairly basic. Written in the present tense. Not essentially bad but not good. Frequently boring.

Final verdict: In another author’s capable hands, this story could have been so good. If it had taken a slightly route here, a different plot idea there, it could have been one of the better YA horror stories out there. As it is, I was intrigued by the first half, made wary by the third quarter and appalled by the ending. I wish I could unread it. 1 star.

Extra notes: No swearing (I think – if there is it didn’t stand out), no sex.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

I picked this title as one of my five for the favourites challenge (pick books marked as favourites by your Goodreads friends). For some reason I could not quite understand, this one was calling to me to read it first, and so read it first I did. I went into the book with not a little trepidation, expecting some cheesy YA paranormal love story set in space. I was wrong.

Presentation: Average-sized YA paperback. There are a full 81 chapters (some are only a few lines or paragraphs) over 398 pages.

Story: Amy’s parents have signed up to start a new life on a new planet. They will be among the first group of humans to colonise this new world, 300 light years from Earth. Amy is acquired a special pass, allowing her to join her parents on this journey across the universe. All three are supposed to be awakened, along with all the other who’ve undergone the freezing process, when they reach the new planet. But something goes wrong. Someone unplugs Amy and she wakes up, finding herself on a ship led by a dictator, populated by mono-ethnic people who seem little more than sheep. Elder, set to become the next leader of Godspeed, finds Amy fascinating and is willing to do any- and everything in his power to help her. Because whoever woke Amy… they haven’t stopped with her.

Thoughts and impressions: I’m finding it quite hard to put my exact feelings about this book into words. If you know me, you’ll know that I have been lamenting the state of YA fiction for a while now. (Poorly written, blank heroines, heroes that only exist to adore the heroine, lack of plot, weird romance replacement plots that do not set a good example for young and impressionable girls.) But this book just blew every single one of them apart.

Let’s go through it point by point, shall we?

Poorly written – No, the exact opposite in this case. The book was very well written. The author took great care to show and not tell whenever possible. I knew right as of the very first chapter, when the freezing process is described, that I was going to like this story and that I would find the “science” presented in it a version for which I would readily suspend my disbelief. The author only occasionally slips into telling but this usually goes hand in hand with showing and is mostly for the scientific apparatus that exist on her ‘spaceship’, so I can easily forgive this.

Blank heroines – This heroine was feisty. She had a personality with strong points and fault, quirks and those little habits that really bug you. She didn’t want to face certain realities so she would quite literally run from them – running so she didn’t have to face them. Other times she would face things directly and stubbornly stand her ground even when it would have been in her better interests to relent. She was very raw about certain truths, freely admitting that she preferred to live in the delusions she’d created for herself rather than face the reality behind them. She was a very human character with whom I could connect on many levels.

Heroes that only exist to adore the heroine – Elder, like Amy, is a deep and interesting character. For the first part of the book, the story is actually more about him than Amy as Amy’s stuck in stasis so you get to know him first. For me, he’s very representative of the 16-year-old males I knew: not quite a child anymore, but desperately clinging to his rights to act the sulky teen; not quite a man, but righting tooth and nail to be recognised as such. When compared with the other characters on the ship, he’s the perfect example of being born into a certain mould but how our choices shape who we are. He has a life beyond Amy – an important one. He is to be the next leader of the ship and he knows it and he knows that he still has a lot of learn. He is adorable in his innocence, respectful of Amy and her wishes despite his fascination with her, and faithful to the knowledge his has always been told is infallible truth. He had a very important role in the story – possibly more important than Amy?

Lack of plot – Though the plot occasionally plodded along at its own pace, there was certainly no lack of it and almost all of the scenes felt carefully chosen, representing an important part of this world in the ship. It’s essentially a whodunit tale but with a sci-fi twist. It becomes obvious to the reader as of relatively early on in the story just who the real culprit is and it is rather infuriating at times that the characters overlook things that could not stare them more in the face if they tried… but this is balanced out by subplots and sub-subplots that keep the reader’s interest – while they can guess at the things behind them, they cannot guess spot on. This makes up for what deficiencies there are to be found in the main plot.

Romance replacement plots that do not set a good example for young and impressionable girls – Well, obviously this story did not need a replacement plot as it had a perfectly good plot as mentioned above. What’s more, the romance subplot is sweet and perfect for YA. The characters are allowed to take things at their own pace, neither pressuring the other, and they don’t both immediately fall on each other with declarations of undying love. I highly approve of this budding romance! Also, there is no uncomfortable love triangle, another point in this story’s favour.

There was a whole host of interesting side characters from the doc to Victria; the old woman whose name I’ve forgotten to Harley. I think Harley was definitely my favourite: an artistic soul broken by many things, strengthened by others; a good friend to both Amy and Elder in their times of need. A young man after my own heart!

Style: Written in the present tense, which is usually not a plus point for me. In this case, I was so absorbed by the story that I usually failed to even notice the tense use. For the rest of it, I enjoyed the style and was easily drawn in by everything to the point where time ceased to matter.

Final verdict: Amazingly vivid imagination has gone into the creation of this story. I loved it. The details were so incredibly intricate from start to finish, everything thought through so very thoroughly in a manner that really added the story’s already impressive worth. I’m already itching to get my hands on the sequel. 4 stars.
(High end 4, the only reason it didn’t quite make 5 was the infuriating blindness towards events that the characters often exhibited. Despite its flaws, it's still going on my GoodReads favourites shelf as the best YA (that takes itself seriously) that I have read so far this year!)

Extra notes: Invented bad language (e.g. ‘frex’). No sex.

Le jeu de l'amour et du hasard by Marivaux

One of my many required reading titles for between now and X-mas. I won’t be typing up reviews for all of them, but I really liked this one, so I thought it deserved a review all of its own! I wasn’t expecting much of it because, frankly, the front cover put me off even reading the book.

A bit of historical context: at this time, France was still bouncing back after the end of Louis XIV’s reign. Though his reign started well, it didn’t end all that well and it took a few years for Paris – and France – to recover. At the time when Le Jeu was written, there were two major theatre trends in Paris: French theatre, which took itself very seriously; and Italian theatre, which has more of a comic side to it. Le Jeu fits in the Italian trend, although Marivaux did also write pieces for French theatre.

Presentation: A short but fun play. My copy is a large paperback with 96 pages broken down into three acts and I don’t know how many scenes.

Story: Silvia isn’t particularly keen on the idea of marriage but when she finds out that she is to meet her newly betrothed, Dorante, that very same day she comes up with the perfect scheme: she and her maid will switch places, allowing her to form an opinion of Dorante without him knowing who she really is. When she asks her father’s permission to enact this scheme, he readily agrees, much to her surprise. Unbeknownst to Silvia (but known to her father), Dorante has had the exact same idea. Fun and games ensue.

Thoughts and impressions: As of the very first page, you know that Silvia is going to be one of those characters that just leave you groaning out loud. She was, right through to the end, though from the perspective of an early 18th century lady of class, I can understand where she’s coming from with her second set of theatrics.

This is not one but two plays within a play, more or less following the three rules of theatre that dominated the writing of French plays at that time. (The one rule that isn’t fully respected is ‘action’ as the piece could have ended had Silvia not played out her second, not entirely necessary, play.) However, I liked this added extra to the play and considering how it did add to both Silvia’s and Dorante’s characters in the end.

I found it funny how neither class, the regal Silvia and Dorante and the ‘help’ Lisette and Arlequin, was able to shake off their true status. Both Silvia and Dorante kept the clipped tones you would expect of members of the aristocracy while Lisette was always quite meek and softly spoken and Arlequin was downright rude! But it all adds up for a bit of short, easy to read fun.

Style: I admit that some of the subtler points of the style may have just completely gone over my head but I appreciated the humour in the piece. The author increases the ‘speed’ of the dialogue by repeating parts what was previously said. I think they even named this style after him!

Final verdict: One of the best pieces of French theatre that I’ve read so far. I was going to alternate scenes of this play with chapters of my English read but ended up ignoring my English book in favour of this and that says everything. 4 stars.

Extra notes: It was written in the early 1800's... of course there's no bad language or sex! 

Friday, 16 September 2011

Follow Friday

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee and Alison can read. This week's question is:

Q. It's that pesky magic book fairy again! She has another wish: What imaginary book world would you like to make a reality?

This was quite a hard one for me to answer. A lot of my favourite books that immediately came to mind are all set in AUs that I really wouldn't want to live in! For example: my favourite book so far this year is The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett - but in his world demons come out at night and gobble up anything they can get their hands on, making humans basically prisoners in their own homes once night falls. So, much as I love that world, I'm not sure I'd want to live there!

So which reality do I like? I finally decided to go with the urban fantasy world created by Russian author Sergei Lukyanenko in his Watch series. It was interesting to read a Russian take on UF. I liked the ideas he presented, that your choice to be good or bad depended on the mood you were in when your powers first start manifesting and that these two opposing teams watch over humans but are not allowed to interfere. I'd like to think that I'd be part of the Night Watch (the good guys) if I were in his world, but knowing how often I get hit by bad moods that might just be wishful thinking!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Hidden by Shalini Boland

The first book in a planned trilogy by indie author Shalini Boland, I won this title in a recent giveaway. As I know how hard it can be for indie authors to get their work out there and recognised, I decided to put all my other reading to one side and concentrate on this one. I would like to point out that all opinions are my own and I have not glossed this review for the sake of the author.

Presentation: E-book. I read mine on Adobe Digital. It had 336 pages broken down into 30 chapters or roughly the same length.

Story: In 1881, Alexandre Chevalier and his family leave Paris for Cappadocia. There, they are to attempt to excavate a recently discovered underground chamber – if it leads to the fabled underground city, it could potentially be the archaeological find of the century. The locals fear the find, though, and tell of the city being a place of death. The Chevaliers dismiss the local fears as every archaeological dig is surrounded by local mistrust and fear of the past, so they and the Swintons – British friends who have joined them on this dig – pay no heed to these tall tales.

In the present day, Madison Greene is a bit of a rebel, always fighting against a system that so far has done very little to help her in any way. Her mother is dead, her father an absentee parent, and she’s stuck in foster care with a drunk with a temper looking after her; at least she and her brother, Ben, are together, though. Then, on her 16th birthday, Maddy is approached by a strange man who claims that she is the heir to the Marchwood estate and the huge fortune that that entails. As per the stipulations in the will, Maddy and Ben make Marchwood their primary residence. Ben settles into life and school in the area while Maddy explores the house and grounds. In the basement she discovers a bricked up room and her curiosity gets the better of her. What could be in that room? Maddy intends to find out.

Thoughts and impressions: The story starts out alternating between Alexandre’s story in 1881 and Maddy’s story in the present day until the two inevitably meet some way into the story. Although this worked well and I much preferred this to any other potential setup, I often found myself far more fascinated by one of the storylines than the other (it alternated between the two), so I’d skip chapters in the other PoV and then go back later. This and the ending were stronger than the initial convergence when Maddy and Alexandre meet.

Maddy accepts Alexandre far too fast in a bipolar like manner of switching to wanting to kill him to wanting to protect him at all costs with no real period of indecision in-between. The plot got placed on a short hiatus to allow the two characters to become lovey-dovey as well. Proclamations of love came a bit too fast for my taste but I suppose that they do at that age. It also verged on Twilight-esque mentions of Alexandre’s physical beauty – repetitions that I’m really not a fan of. Teens may eat that up, but I prefer not to be reminded of just how physically attractive a character is – I feel like I’m being conditioned to find the character attractive; told the character is beautiful rather than shown. Once the plot started again, though, I enjoyed the conclusion to this first book - the last few chapters, when the antagonist had put in an appearance, were my favourite.

I found Alexandre easier to connect with than Maddy. Maddy just kept making what I consider to be stupid decisions (the party, dropping out of school at barely 16 with no real education, etc.) and isn’t much of a role model for girls – but at least she’s a character with real flaws.  Her clothes were frequently described in detail: this is something that a lot of authors tend to do, I’m not sure why. This is another case of a situation where I, as the reader, have been made aware of Maddy’s personality and the styles she prefers and can use my imagination from there on for the most part with only certain necessary exceptions where the clothes she’s wearing are very important. I really enjoyed the portrayal of Alexandre’s adjustment to modern society – his love of certain things, hatred of others – it was all handled very well and gave an amusing side to that stage in the story.

Some notes on the French:
Alexandre is obviously a French character and the author did a fantastic job of bringing this across in his speech patterns and she occasionally used French in the story, which worked in the story’s favour.

One of the French characters, very minor role, is called Zizzy. I’m not sure whether this is a period name but every time I read it all I could think of was ‘zizi’ (they’d be pronounced almost exactly the same way) – the French equivalent of ‘willy’. Might be my warped mind there!

At one point, Alexandre says “je vous mendie” – I beg of you. Mendier is when someone is begging in the streets. The verb here should be ‘supplier’ and you need an ‘en’ with it, I won’t pretend to know why (though I should know) but both my brother and myself would use the 'en'. “Je vous en supplie.”

Style: An enjoyable style suitable for YA. There are some instances of clunkiness in the beginning, especially with dialogue, but this soon improves as the author gets into the flow of the story. There are a few things that escaped the editing process but that is to be expected.

Final verdict: I enjoyed this one. It had an interesting take on vampires. I felt that this first book was slow in places but a necessary stepping stone to the second book, which I’m hoping will contain a more present antagonist and more of a threat. I suspect that this one will appeal to fans of Twilight. 4 stars.

Extra notes: Language didn’t stick out to me. No sex. Appropriate for teen readers.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Sequels You're Dying to Read

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the broke and the bookish. This week the topic for the list is the top ten sequels you're dying to read. I'm going to try to not mention any of the books mentioned in last week's Top Ten Tuesday, but obviously I'm excited to read those, too! So, in no particular order:

10. The Daylight War by Peter V Brett (Demon Cycle #3)
Ok, so I haven't read The Desert Spear (book 2) yet, but I got my mitts on it last week and I'll be reading it as soon as I get the chance. This was originally supposed to be a trilogy, but apparently it's now become a 5-part series. Fair enough, as I adored the first book and am already itching to get my hands on book 3!

9. Wrayth by Philippa Ballantine (Book of the Order #3)
Geist, I loved. Spectyr was even better. This one doesn't have a release day set yet, but I'm fervantly hoping it'll be within the first half of 2012.

8. Darkness Falls by Cate Tiernan (Immortal Beloved #2)
The first book was very good - the character discovering her true self kind of story. But the best friend was forgotten about and I'm looking forward to reading about him in the second book. He seemed a twisted but delightful character, I can't wait to get to know him better.

7. Dark Victory by Michele Lang (Lady Lazarus #2)
The first book was a bit corny at times, granted, but I enjoyed it enough to want to know more. Angels, witches, demons and Hitler and the holocaust? I want to know how her fight against Hitler and the demons will unfold.

6. Timeless by Gail Carriger (Parasol Protectorate #5)
I've got to the point now where I just want a final resolution to Alexia Maccon (previously Tarabotti)'s story. This book promises to be that and hopefully it'll stay that way.

5. The Calling by Kelley Armstrong (Darkness Rising Trilogy #2)
The whole of the first book read like a prologue to the events in this upcoming second book. I want the action - or at least progression of events - promised by this second book. I really enjoyed Armstrong's style for YA and I'm looking forward to this release in April next year.

4. Heart's Blood by Gail Dayton (Blood Magic #3)
Actually, this one's supposed to be out already... but it's not. I've only read book 2 (without realising that it was book 2 of a series) but I enjoyed it and I want to see where it'll lead in this steampunky-type world ruled by magic.

And sequels that I already own but need to get around to reading asap. Time to get me bum in gear!

3. The Dark Enquiry by Deanna Raybourn (Lady Julia Grey #5)
I adore this series. It's my favourite! I have no idea why I haven't read this one yet. Maybe because I know that as of right now there is no book 6 planned and I really don't want this series to end yet. I still need to read it at any rate.

2. The Hidden Goddess by M.K. Hobson (Native Star #2)
I really enjoyed The Native Star when I read it last year. This is another one where I've bought the sequel then other purchases have interferred and it just keeps getting pushed back on my reading list until a later date.

1. Daughters of Rome by Kate Quinn
So this one isn't a sequel but a prequel. I suspect very few of the characters from Mistress of Rome will make an appearance in Daughters of Rome. Mistress of Rome was one of my favourite reads of 2010, though, so I really ought to make time to read her second book.

And there you have it.

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

Someone recommended that I try Moning’s books at some point last year when I first got back into reading again. I found myself unable to choose between the Highlander series and the Fever series, so in the end I bought the first book of both. I read the Highlander one first and it was something akin to watching a horrific car crash take place – I couldn’t suspend my disbelief far enough to enjoy it, but I couldn’t tear my eyes from it and I was left feeling frustrated with no wish to read any more of Moning’s work. Unfortunately, I now expected Darkfever to let me down in the same way and I approached it as such, which was unfair of me. And boy, was I wrong.

Presentation: Mass market paperback. The font is medium-sized, well-spaced. There are 342 pages broken down into a prologue and 25 chapters. The book also contains a glossary, which I found helpful at times.

Story: MacKayla Lane, your typical southern belle – blonde, green eyes, obsessed with pink – receives a phone call informing her of her sister’s gruesome murder in Dublin, Ireland. She soon realises that before her death, Alina tried to contact her, leaving a cryptic message on her voicemail in which she informs Mac that she has to find the shi sadu, whatever the hell that is.

Disturbed by the event, the message, and the fact that the Irish police have shelved her sister’s murder as unsolved, Mac leaves Georgia and flies to Ireland, hoping to unravel the mystery behind what led up to her sister’s murder herself. But everything is not as it seems in Ireland. The stories she hears about her sister do not sound like the Alina she knew, and Mac soon starts seeing things that seem as impossible as they are real. Against her better judgement, she finds herself in league with the mysterious, but pompous, Jericho Barrons. She needs his help to understand this new world that she has found herself in… for the fae are after her now.

Thoughts and impressions: It took me two attempts to read this book. The first time I picked it up soon after reading Beyond the Highland Mists (which, as previously mentioned, I did not enjoy) and I only made it to page 24 before I could not take the shallowness of pink-loving MacKayla Lane anymore. The second time I picked it up, I did not stop reading until I’d finished it.

Once the story gets going, it really is very good. Mac is shallow, but that just means that she’s got lots of room to grow. I love the idea behind the plot: the Fae are pretty much invaders from outer space – they keep their good (Seelie) and bad (Unseelie) factions. The Unseelie have been stuck in a prison for millennia but now its walls are falling and the Unseelie are infiltrating human society at humanity’s cost. Mac is one of a small number of people who can see the Fae for what they really are behind their human disguise and she is horrified by what they are and what they do. The different Fae do different things: there’s one that steals beauty from its victims and I loved the one that kept making Mac remove her clothes in public without her being aware of her actions.

Mac alternately frustrated me with how shallow and material she is and amused me for the same reason. Despite myself, I found myself genuinely growing to like her character.

Style: Some problems here and there but overall polished and well-written.

Final verdict: Definitely worth the read. I’d already ordered in book 2 before I reached the end of this one. 4 stars.

Extra notes: This story contains its fair share of swearing. There is no actual sex but the book is a far cry from clean. It is not YA. Older teens and up on this one.