Tag Archives: Book reviews

Not All Are Equal – Gilded Cage by Vic James

It seems like forever ago now when I stumbled across the name Vic James, or as Wattpadders know her ‘JayVictor’.

Having just joined Wattpad, Vic happened upon my freshly Featured short story The Fan, a commentary on the sometimes obsessive and unhealthy side of fandoms, and her name flashed up on my notifications feed.

By that point, I’d become slightly disillusioned with the concept of being a Featured writer on Wattpad, having lost the dizzy afterglow some weeks before, when readers descended upon the story in their thousands. My notifications had blown up and I was lost in a chaos of inane comments that left me feeling despondent and despairing that someone would actually provide some constructive feedback on the story itself, rather than tell me which fandom they belonged to, berate me for the character’s foul language (‘it’s limited vocabulary, don’t you know?’) or to tell me that ‘you spelt grey wrong. It’s G-R-A-Y. Spell things correctly, author!’

Then one day, Vic appeared, and I was surprised (and touched) to discover that not only was The Fan the first story she had chosen to read on Wattpad, but that she had zero interest in telling me which fandom she belonged to and actually had something meaningful to contribute. A spark of something constructive that revived my love for the story and gave me the gusto to dive back into the comments board and interact with my readers. After that, I saw Vic’s name crop up quite a bit on my newsfeed as she navigated her way through the site and I even added her story – back then known as Slavedays – to my extensive To-Read list.

Now, I’m going to be honest here.

Slavedays wasn’t top of my list in terms of priority reads.

I didn’t do dystopian. Dystopian had suddenly become one of those trendy genres and I usually like to avoid trendy fiction as much as I possibly can. Remember when Fifty Shades came out and then everyone was writing about millionaire (or even billionaire) CEO’s with a penchant for whips and red rooms? Or when Twilight became huge and everyone was writing about vampire-werewolf love triangles and imprinting wolves and completely forgot that vampires weren’t always sparkly? Hunger Games…. Divergent …. none of it really caught my attention and so, I tended to avoid anything dystopian. To me, dystopian fiction was like your Great Aunt Gertrude, the one you avoided at family gatherings because she liked to spit on a hankie and wipe your face clean while overpowering you with the stench of lavender and moth-balls.

Yeah, dystopian was my least-favourite Aunt.

But still… I liked Vic immensely, having met her at the very first London Wattpad convention (she asked me to attend) and I found myself wanting to read it, just as I often do when I like the author – call it a sense of author-loyalty, if you like. Plus, the book had picked up a lot of attention, winning a Watty Award in 2014 and I knew that I needed to get past my snobby dislike of trend and just read the blooming thing.

Alas (for me) by then, Vic and Slavedays had been signed up by PanMacmillan and the book was removed from Wattpad (the old cover and prologue is still there) and by the time I wanted to read it, I had to wait just like everyone else. Damn it.

But hey, isn’t it just GREAT when you can honestly say that something really was worth the wait??

With the newly-named Gilded Cage downloaded on my Kindle before Christmas (the paperback is out in the UK on 26th January), I finally managed to secure some read-time and settled down at the weekend to dive in, having only managed to find time to read a couple of chapters when it was first released on ebook.

Shockingly, I don’t read nearly as much as I used to, what with work, commuting, motherhood and writing now filling up my schedule but you can rest assured if I put the writing to one side to read – and by read, I mean CONSUME – then you KNOW it’s a bloody good book.

The story focuses on the fate of the Hadley’s, an average family torn apart when they are committed to doing their slavedays – 10 years of compulsory servitude to the Equals, the ruling aristocracy of the land, who rule because they are gifted with Skill, a magical power passed from generation to generation and which sets them apart from the commoners. In a cruel twist of fate, the Hadley’s (almost seventeen year old) son Luke is separated from his family and forced to undertake his slavedays at Milmoor, the grim, brutal industrial slave town, while his mum, dad and two sisters get to serve the infamous Jardines, one of the most powerful families of all the Equals.

At Milmoor, Luke learns quickly, trying to avoid the baton of the security guy Kessler who has taken an instant dislike to him, while also trying to make sure he isn’t crushed by the colossal machinery in the workhouse everyday. Back at Kyneston, the Jardine family estate, the rest of the Hadley’s have seemingly a better lot in life and are put to work serving the strange and powerful Equals.

We soon discover that life isn’t all that it seems in either Milmoor or Kyneston, and both Luke and his family, discover that adapting to their new lives brings more surprises and twists than they could ever have imagined.

The contrast between the grey, dirty almost Dickensian world of Milmoor and the sumptuous luxury of Kyneston couldn’t be more pronounced and I adored dipping back and forth between POV’s, creeping with Luke along the grimy back alleys of the slavetown and then wandering the halls of the Jardine’s stately home with Abi Hadley and her Equal masters. As usual, I am always envious of anyone who writes third person really well, as I really don’t, and Vic definitely nails her characters, giving us just enough tempting insight into each mind to leave us desperately wanting more. The narrative was compelling and I was torn throughout as the story led me through countless possibilities as to who I could trust and who I couldn’t and just when I thought I had it all worked out, I was right back to square one again.

Individual POV’s and plot lines are interwoven within the backdrop of political agenda, secrets and lies and civil unrest, all boiling within this huge cauldron of simmering tension that keeps you turning the page. Added into the mix is the mystery and wonder of the Equals Skill, awe-inspiring and, at times, quite terrifying to behold, in particular I thought, the power of the sinister Silyen Jardine (a particular favourite of mine) and the as yet unknown twisted intent of Lord Crovan (I can’t wait to find out more about him!).

It wasn’t until I reached the jaw-dropping end (and yes, its F-ing jaw-dropping) that I had to sit back and remind myself:

I DON’T DO DYSTOPIAN!!!!

Yet apparently now, I do. Who’d have thought it?

I’m not even going to lie. Gilded Cage rocked my world at the weekend and the truth is, I wasn’t expecting it to, despite the fact there’s been such an industry buzz about this book brewing for months now. Bloggers are talking about it. Industry experts are talking about it. Readers are loving it. I loved it.

If you want a book that’ll have you reeling for days, this is it.

If you’re like me and dystopian fiction is your Great-Aunt Gertrude, or Millicent, or Antonia, read this book. Seriously. Just read it.

If you’re already a big YA Fantasy fan and you’re looking for your next favourite read …well, you catch my drift already, I’m sure.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, this anti-dystopian reader is off to rage at Vic James on every social media account she has, to demand more words. OR ELSE.

FIVE BIG MAGICALLY SKILLED STARS!!!

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#WriterWednesday – Lindsay J. Pryor – Cover Real ‘Blood Roses’

HAPPY WRITER WEDNESDAY EVERYONE!

I wanted to drop in with a Writer Wednesday post about an author I have spoken to you all about before – Lindsay J. Pryor, author of the wonderfully wicked Blood Shadows (of which I reviewed on here previously) and soon-to-be-published Blood Roses.

Blood Roses is to be published via Bookoutre on 26th April 2013 and although the cover has been floating around online for a little while, and apparently viewed over 2,500 times on Facebook, I thought I would add the cover to my site, one) because I’m so excited about the upcoming release date and two) because I think the covers for the Blackthorn series are just beautiful. They’re simple yet stunning and totally draw in the reader immediately and let’s not get started on the amazing words you will find from front cover to back!

If you read my review of Blood Shadows, you will know that I’m a big fan already and I hope I encouraged you to go check it out. If I did, then wonderful and here’s a little teaser introduction on what to expect from Blood Roses:

“She was supposed to kill vampires, not save them.  Those were the rules.  That was the lore.”

A rare and powerful witch whose blood is lethal to vampires, Leila has always viewed her serryn abilities as a curse.  After seeing her mother slaughtered as a child, Leila longs for a safe, quiet life.

That wish is shattered by Caleb Dehain – a vampire with a dark past and a darker heart.  The most feared serryn hunter of his generation, Caleb now needs the help of one of the witches he despises to save his dying brother.

A serryn who has no reason to help him.  Except that he has her sister.

Caleb and Leila are each other’s worst nightmare – but the slow-burning spark of attraction between them is undeniable.  Will Leila’s blood be his damnation?  Or could her kiss be his salvation?

If that wasn’t enough to tempt you (and I don’t know why it wouldn’t) then here’s the cover in full glorious colour! Go bathe in its beauty. And then read the book on 26th April 🙂

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#WriterWednesday – A review of Weaver by John Abramowitz

Time for a #WriterWednesday shout out and this week I am going to tie this in with a review of Weaver by John Abramowitz.

Previous visitors to my blog might have seen my review of John’s Atticus For the Undead posted back in February and now the time has come to review the first book in The Weaver Saga. Reading time is still incredibly rare and precious these days so there’s nothing better than finding I’ve spent time reading a good book, as opposed to reading some total pish when I could have been writing. To be fair, writing usually takes precedence over reading but I’m all too aware that I need to keep reading as it always inspires the writing: I can’t really have one without the other.

So hurrah for John and another great read with Weaver. As seems to be John’s ‘thang’, he immediately thrusts the reader into the story with a prologue that leaves you wanting more – main protagonist tenth-grader Alex Cronlord is being chased relentlessly through woods by some unknown assailant. Who is chasing her? Why is she being chased? What happens to her?

Soon we learn that it was all a dream; definitely not a Bobby Ewing dream where someone pops up casually soaping themselves down in the shower, happy as larry, but instead a dark and ominous premonition. Alex is a Weaver and can see visions of the future, although when we meet her, she doesn’t yet know this. Soon we learn that Alex’s mother, the cold and aloof Ainsling Cronlord isn’t who she appears to be and Alex is mixed up in something much darker than your average tenth-graders life of school, boys and more boys.

Step up Moira McBain, hard-ass FBI agent, who finds herself and her partner Andrew thrown into the Cronlords’ lives in a way she didn’t quite expect nor want, considering it throws up rather painful memories of her brother’s death and her own involvement with the mysterious Wells Society. With a deep-rooted desire to protect Alex, Moira sets out on a mission to throw a spanner into the works of Ainsling and the Wells Society’s plans for the young girl.

What struck me about Weaver is that this is no clear-cut story about good versus evil. It’s hard to know who really is the bad guy. Is it the Xorda, vampire-like creatures who suck the souls out of their victims and deadly enemies of the Weavers? Is it Ainsling and the Wells Society, who will seemingly stop at nothing in their fight with the Xorda? Or is it the so-called Rejects – escapees from the clutches of the Wells Society and now hell bent on revenge against their own families? The lines here a definitely blurred and why not? The battle between good and evil is never really that well-defined in real life and many people do bad things in the pursuit of goodness so I thought this angle, whether intentional or not, was pretty refreshing and made me want to learn more about each character. There was also a shock twist in there which I definitely didn’t see coming.

I think my only criticism of Weaver is that it was just too short. I got to about 82% and all I could think was “come on! There’s loads more story left in this” but then again I am a fan of the long novel, so do find it a little unusual when I read a book that doesn’t double as a nuclear bomb shelter. Because of that I did have a sense that the book finished too quickly, but the good news is there is a second book in the series, The Void, all ready and waiting for me to read so the story is definitely nowhere near over.

Four out of five stars for Weaver! Go read and let me know what you think!

If you want to follow John online, you can find him hanging around here:

Twitter: @onthebird
Blog: http://onthebird.blogspot.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/OnTheBird

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Things To Do In Denver When You’re Un-dead by Mark Everett Stone

I haven’t reviewed anything in a while and this review has definitely been a long time coming, so to Mark Everett Stone, author of Things To Do In Denver When You’re Un-dead, I apologise profusely. No doubt he thought I had forgotten all about him, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Quite often when I’m reviewing, it seems I’m reviewing a book that I wouldn’t usually read, mostly because it’s from a genre that I would not generally be drawn to. This is not because I don’t like that genre, but because I’m a little elitist when it comes to my reading choices and tend to stick to straight out horror or paranormal thrillers.
So it feels incredibly good to be reviewing a book that would be my first choice to read, should I come across it on a book shelf or within the hallowed pages of Amazon.
Kal Hakala, senior agent at the Denver Bureau of Scientific Investigations, keeps Brownies (the sprite variety, not the cake) under his desk and demons in his head. Tortured by the death of his sister when they were children, Kal lives with a lust for revenge and a pure undiluted rage, that seems to surface just when he needs to dispatch a ghoul, zombie, vampire or other supernatural enemy back to The World Under.
Together with his team of kick-ass agents, magicians and a cyber-ghost, Kal is on a mission to track down Denver’s most notorious serial killer The Organ Donor, who has been killing people and leaving their organs stored in ice, telling the police to “give them to someone worthwhile.” The team know this is no ordinary serial killer case and set out to track down the Renfield (so called because he does a vampire’s bidding) behind it. Soon they find themselves embroiled in a mystery of body stealing, ghoul-raising and a race against time that is far deeper, darker and dangerous than a simple vampire hunt.
The action is definitely fast-paced and unashamedly blood thirsty; the violence is never sugar-coated nor watered down and soon you find yourself swept along with Kal and his team in a way that has you feeling every cut, every hit and every bruise. The characters knit together very well and you can’t help but feel the same respect and love for Kal that they do, but there is no doubt it is Kal himself who stands out and draws you in with his steely, furious determination.
Lathi-toting and bowie-wielding, the man has enough balls to draw in the male reader, whilst possessing just the right amount of brooding darkness to make the women readers fall in love with him. He’s the type of complicated action hero who would be right at home on the silver screen; he’s not perfect by a long shot, but don’t we just love that kind of tortured soul good guy who contains just enough grit and rage to keep us all gagging for more?
And thank goodness there is more. By the time I got to the end, I knew I was going to need more Kal Hakala in my life and did a little dance when I found out that there was a second book What Happens In Vegas Dies in Vegas.
For me, it gave me everything I crave in a paranormal thriller; I got my action hero, I got my ghouls, demons and vampires, I got more than my fair share of violence and blood and what’s more, I love the way Mark has weaved the threads of real life and myth together. In Kal’s world, mythical monsters are very much real and JFK, Thomas Jefferson, Hitler and Goebbels were magicians (the latter being something Mark investigates further in Vegas).
So if you’re looking for an unrelenting paranormal thriller or an edgy action story that will leave you needing more, then this is definitely the book for you. Go check it out!

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