Friday, August 31, 2012

London, Baby!

On 12th September I’ll be leaving for 10 days of London-y goodness, and I’m very excited! I’ve been to London a couple of times, but this is the first time I’ll be heading into the city alone, and I’m going to do ALL the stuff – well, maybe not *everything*, but a lot. I’m planning to indulge at Cocomaya, spend part of my day at Hatchard’s near Piccadilly Circus, wander around on the set of Harry Potter and this year, I finally want to take flight in the London Eye.

There’s no need to worry about content on the blog; I’ve planned ahead and scheduled a bunch of posts to go up. The only thing missing will be the In Case You Missed It posts, because, well, if I’m in London, I can’t really write those posts. I’ll be too busy eating scones and taking pictures the Owl-y buildings.

Since a lot of my bookish friendsies live in the UK, or at least have been to London, I was wondering if you guys had some tips on stuff I should really check out while I’m there. I’ve already visited Harrods (and Selfridges right before Christmas – gorgeous!), saw Buckingham Palace along with the Changing of the Guard, wandered around most of the parks and spent a day in the London Zoo. I’ve done a lot of the typical tourist-y stuff, except visit some museums, which I plan to do this year. Yup, it’s going to be a busy holiday!

So far, I’ve got this planned; London Aquarium, Harry Potter Studio tour, Hatchard’s, visit one or more museum(s), Tower of London, Shakespeare’s Globe, go see a musical (any tips for discount booths?), London Eye, do some shopping, hang around in one of the parks. I don’t want to plan everything yet, because it’s nice to just decide what to do when you had breakfast, but if there’s anything I’ll have to buy tickets for, it’s nice to know beforehand. I’d love to go to a signing while I’m there, so if you know of any, please let me know!

Anyhoo, the bottom line is.. Can you recommend me something to do in London? J

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review: Thorn Queen by Richelle Mead

Thorn Queen by Richelle Mead 
Published: July 13th, 2008 (Bantam)
Pages: 480
Age group: adult
Source: bought
Challenge: none
Series: Dark Swan, #2
Buy the book: Bookdepository
Rating: ★★★★☆

Note: this is not the first book in a series, and can therefore contain (minor) spoilers for the previous book(s) in the series. Reading of this review is at your own risk.

Eugenie Markham is a shaman for hire. She's paid to bind and banish creatures from the Otherworld.

But something happened after her last battle. She became queen of the Thorn Land. With her kingdom in tatters, her love life in chaos, and eager to avoid the prophecy about her firstborn destroying mankind, the job's really not all it's cracked up to be.

Now young girls are disappearing from the Otherworld, and no one seems willing to find out why. Or to put an end to it. Not that Eugenie's fazed by spilling fey blood, but this enemy is shrewd, subtle, and dangerous -- and nursing a very personal grudge.

Eugenie must venture deep into the Otherworld and trust in a power she can barely control. She may be a reluctant queen, but she's vowed to do her duty, even if it means facing the darkest and deadliest side of her nature.

The second instalment in the Dark Swan series is just as exciting and fast paced as the first volume. Picking up where we left off with Storm Born, we follow Eugenie deeper into the world of fae and her struggle with an old prophecy, the fae themselves and her more complicated love life. And if you ask me, it only gets better.

Where I was firmly on Kiyo’s side in the first book, I’ve now switched sides and am currently rooting for Dorian. Who, by the way, turns out to be smoking hot AND caring. Instead of, you know, controlling and annoying. Oh, and lying. I was really annoyed by Kiyo’s behaviour in this book and that was a really big chance from what I’ve seen from him in the first book.

The story itself gets twistier with every page and I love how Mead has managed to create this world. There’s something about it that makes it realistic while you still realise that it’s completely fantasy and I really like that. The fae are awesome, whether they are good or bad, they are written in a way that makes them walk out of the pages. I really like that I’m feeling these extreme emotions with these characters – I either love them or hate them. With a burning passion.

I’m curious to see where book three takes me, especially after seeing Eugenie’s dad acting so weird. I feel like he’s up to something (either that, or he has something to hide about what he already did) and I want to punch it out of him. And of course after what happened in the end.. What is next for Eugenie is probably war, but I agree with Dorian. I would have done the same thing. Well, maybe not, but I feel the same way he does.

So.. Yeah. That’s my rambly review of Thorn Queen. I don’t know what it is with this book that makes me unable to form some decent thoughts on the book without talking about smoking hot characters and slapping others. Having said that, I think I’ll just go cheat on my book buying ban and get the third instalment to read while I’m in London. Sounds like a plan to me!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Review: Prim Improper by Deirdre Sullivan

Prim Improper by Deirdre Sullivan
Published: September 10th, 2010 (Little Island)
Pages: 250
Source: for review
Challenge: none
Series: none
Buy the book: Bookdepository
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ ½

Primrose Leary has just started secondary school.

Likes: her pet rat, Roderick; her best friend, Joel; being a little bit different (but not in the weird different sense – she wouldn’t like to be the only bald girl in her class or the only girl who always smelled of ham, or anything).

Dislikes: living with Fintan (her moustachioed dad); the boy-school that Joel’s toddled off to without her; not having her mum around any more.

It’s been a while and I’m still unsure about what I should think of this book. Prim Improper started off promising enough, with enough potential to keep me reading, but in the end, it just wasn’t for me.

The entire book is written in semi-diary style, following Prim in her daily life while she tries to deal with living with her father after her mum died in an accident. We see what she does every day, both at home and at school and with therapy in between. Maybe I am missing something, but I felt like the story was clueless. I didn’t feel like the story was going anywhere, and I didn’t feel like it was particularly character or plot driven. It just fell flat because the story and the characters didn’t come alive.

The reason I kept reading was because I was hoping this would be a similar style book to Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, which I loved. But it wasn’t. I felt like maybe the author had tried to make it like Georgia, but failed. Because it wasn’t as funny, and it wasn’t going anywhere.

When I read the reviews that are out there for this book, I feel like I’m missing something trivial. I’ve only seen positive reviews and I fail to understand why this book is awesome. Yeah, I kept reading, because there were funny bits that were very promising, but on the next page we would just hear more about Prim’s ramblings.

No, this definitely wasn’t a book for me. I sincerely hope that I’m indeed missing something, because the world could do with a good humorous series starring a teenage girl.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Review: Finding Sky by Joss Stirling

Finding Sky by Joss Stirling 
Published: September 2011 (Blossom Books)
Pages: 432
Source: for review
Challenge: none
Series: Benedict, #1
Buy the book: Bookdepository
Rating: ★★★★☆

When Sky catches a glimpse of Zed for the first time, lounging against his motorbike at school, she is drawn to him just like every other girl in Wickenridge. But Zed sees something special in her that the other girls don’t have. Zed tells her they are both Savants – people with special powers like telepathy and the ability to see into the future. Not only that, she is a Savant too, and his soulfinder – meant to be together.

When a soulfinder speaks telepathically to her partner, it’s like all the lights coming on in a building. You lit me up like Vegas. But for Sky it’s just not that easy – she’s a mystery to herself, haunted by nightmares from her past before she was adopted, and riddled with doubt and insecurity. Just when Sky is slowly coming round to the idea of being with Zed she is kidnapped by a family of criminal Savants. In a chilling twist, Sky and Zed’s relationship is put to the ultimate test and the fate of those she loves lie in Sky’s hands. Will Sky have the strength to embrace her power and be brave enough to control her own destiny, or will the dark demons of her past prevent her from realising her true potential?

Note: I read this book in Dutch.

After hearing so many awesome things about Finding Sky, I have to say I was more than a bit curious. So imagine my reaction when I got this one in for review. Eep! Yes, I did a little dance. And not for nothing; Finding Sky was a compelling read and I couldn't get enough of it.

Sky seems to be holding back a little in this book, but I can't say I blame her. She just moved across the Atlantic and doesn't really know anyone yet. At school, she meets Zed; a bad boy with a bad attitude who doesn't care about anything. Until he meets Sky, and claims she's his soulmate. Sky thinks he's crazy and doesn't believe in any of the soulmates stuff, so she holds him off (GO YOU!). But when she discovers he's a Savant, and she is, too, everything starts to unravel.

I really liked this idea of Savants and their world. There are many different kinds of Savants and I really enjoyed reading about them. I'm quite curious about the powers of the others!

For me personally, Sky was a little too shy, a little too introvert for my liking, even though it worked out for the story. Zed and Sky balanced eachother out pretty nicely, but I would have liked to see Sky being a little more assertive - but props for not giving into Zed's soulmate-stuff!

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. The writing kept me engaged while I found out more about the Savants and their powers. The way the world of the Savants was incorporated into the real world was very nicely done and has made me curious about what more there is to discover from their world. Where is the next Benedict brother?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger 
Published: September 7th, 2010 (Little Brown/Poppy)
Pages: 280
Source: bought
Challenge: none
Series: none
Buy the book: Bookdepository
Rating: ★★★★☆

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him. Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

The DUFF really took me by surprise. Amber convinced me to read it (THANK YOU!) and I don't think I would've read it anytime soon if she hadn't. Somehow, neither the cover, the title or the synopsis calls to me. It sounds generic, bland, something that doesn't stand out in the field of YA that we have now. But that, cover and that title really don't do the book justice. The DUFF is funny, remarkably honest and in terms of emotions, it's pretty raw.

Bianca is one of those characters who you're most likely to hate in the beginning. She's judgmental, sarcastic, negative and seems to be a bit of a loner, despite the fact that she has a couple of friends. But she really took me by surprise on the pages that followed. She's still sarcastic and a bit of a loner, but she's funny and I loved the honesty of her voice in this book.

As for Wesley, I really liked him as a character. Sure, he's an ass, especially at the beginning, but hey, Bianca is an ass too. Wesley is just as honest and sarcastic as Bianca and together, it just works. I have no clue how, but the two of them together is like two puzzle pieces falling together or something. They both become a better person after getting together and they help eachother to see who they really are and what they really want.

Both Bianca and Wesley have put up a wall around themselves and it comes crumbling down bit by bit after they kiss on that first night in the book. That combined with the writing style and humor had me flipping the pages until I finished the book in one sitting.

Keplinger was able to tell Bianca and Wesley's story very realisticly and I really applaud her way of telling this story without sugar coating anything. I haven't yet read more of her work, but I'm definitely going to pick up another of her books when I have the opportunity. If you're into contemporary and enjoy raw and funny stories, I'd definitely recommend this one.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Review: Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning 
Published: October 1st, 2006 (Gollancz)
Pages: 344
Age group: adult
Source: bought
Challenge: none
Series: Fever, #1
Buy the book: Bookdepository
Rating: ★★★☆☆

MacKayla Lane’s life is good. She has great friends, a decent job, and a car that breaks down only every other week or so. In other words, she’s your perfectly ordinary twenty-first-century woman.

Or so she thinks…until something extraordinary happens.

When her sister is murdered, leaving a single clue to her death–a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone–Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. The quest to find her sister’s killer draws her into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems, where good and evil wear the same treacherously seductive mask. She is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to learn how to handle a power she had no idea she possessed–a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae..

As Mac delves deeper into the mystery of her sister’s death, her every move is shadowed by the dark, mysterious Jericho, a man with no past and only mockery for a future. As she begins to close in on the truth, the ruthless Vlane–an alpha Fae who makes sex an addiction for human women–closes in on her. And as the boundary between worlds begins to crumble, Mac’s true mission becomes clear: find the elusive Sinsar Dubh before someone else claims the all-powerful Dark Book–because whoever gets to it first holds nothing less than complete control of the very fabric of both worlds in their hands..

So.. This is a hard review for me to write. While I enjoyed reading it, and tore through it pretty quickly, it didn't really connect with me anywhere.

Mac is a nice enough character. She's a bit naive, going to Ireland to solve her sister's murder by herself because nobody can help her, and she rolls right into the problems. She's introduced to the world of Fae in record speed and soon she finds herself in the middle of finding an ancient book while she has to battle off the dark fae. One night she stumbles upon a bookstore owned by Jericho Barrons, and meets its owner. Cue the real start of the plot of this book.

I'm just going to put it out there: Jericho Barrons is an ass. I hate him. He's a poor excuse of a man and I can't stand him. He's bloody annoying in about three quarters of the book and if he was real, I'd have punched him in the face, tall as he might be. He's up there with Bill Compton from the Sookie Stackhouse books in terms of most-hated character.

Having said that, I liked that the story is told as if Mac tells the story afterwards. I liked her flashbacks, her pondering, her reflection on what had happened and I'm quite curious what comes next. I'd say I hope there is less Barrons in it, but I think that's wasted energy.

Darkfever set up nicely for the rest of the series, mapping out Dublin and creating a base for the storyline in the next books. I read the book fairly quickly, flipping the pages to find out more, and I'm sure that Moning will deliver that and more again in the sequel.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

[Daph's BBE] Vrees Me Chapter Preview & Giveaway!

This post is written in Dutch, because it's about one of the most anticipated Dutch books of 2012: Vrees Me by Tahereh Mafi (Shatter Me).

Voor mijn Nederlandse lezers heb ik iets heel leuks! Over een paar weken komt Vrees Me uit, geschreven door Tahereh Mafi. Het is een van de top YA titels van 2012 en ik weet zeker dat het boek niet teleur zal stellen!

Na de laatste keer dat Juliette iemand aanraakte, werd ze opgesloten voor moord. Het was een ongeluk, maar niemand wilde naar haar luisteren.

Juliette ziet vanuit het piepkleine raampje in haar cel hoe de lucht van kleur verandert, hoe dieren sterven aan onbehandelbare ziektes en hoe de mensen in steeds grotere armoede leven. Het Herstel belooft beterschap. Maar om dit te bereiken hebben ze een wapen nodig Een dodelijk wapen. Juliette is zelfs precies wat ze op dit moment nodig hebben...

En ik mag iets leuks met jullie delen! Ik ben samen met Blossom Books aan het werk geweest om iets tofs te doen rondom Vrees Me en jullie kunnen hier hoofdstuk vijf lezen! Voor hoofdstuk 1 klik je hier: clickie en voor hoofdstuk 2 t/m 4 klik je hier: clickie!

Klinkt goed, yes? Dat dacht ik ook! En dankzij Blossom Books mag ik nu niet één, maar twéé exemplaren weggeven aan twee lucky winnaars! Het enige dat je ervoor hoeft te doen is het formulier hieronder in te vullen. Klaar is kees!

[ contest closed ] 

Je kunt Tahereh ook vinden op twitter onder @TaherehMafi, Blossom Books vind je @blossombooks.

Dat was het voor vandaag! Morgen is de laatste dag van mijn Birthday Bash Extravaganza, hopelijk zie ik je dan nog een keer! :)

Birthday question: what's your favorite translated book?

Friday, August 17, 2012

[Daph's BBE] Interview With Carrie Harris & Giveaway!

Welcome to day 5 of my Birthday Bash Extravaganza - on my actual birthday! Eep! Today I welcome Carrie Harris to the blog! She participated in the first edition of Daph's BBE as well (clickie!) and this year she's BACK! She allowed me to ask her some questions, some of which are a bit odd, but at least she didn't go out and get a restraining order, so I guess we're still good.. Anyhoo, let's welcome Carrie Harris, author of Bad Taste in Boys and Bad Hair Day (out in November)!

Senior year is positively hair-raising.

Kate Grable is geeked out to shadow the county medical examiner as part of her school’s pre-med program. Except when he’s arrested for murder, she’s left with the bodies. And when Kate’s brother Jonah stumbles upon a dead gamer girl, she realizes that the zombie epidemic she cured last fall was only the beginning of the weirdness taking over her town. Someone’s murdering kids—something really hairy. And strong. Possibly with claws.

Is it werewolf awesomeness like Jonah and his dorktastic friends think? Kate’s supposed to be a butt-kicking zombie killing genius...but if she can’t figure out who’s behind the freakish attacks, the victims—or what’s left of them—are going to keep piling up.

It’s scary. It’s twisted. It’s sick. It’s high school.

Bad Hair Day comes out in a couple of months (eep!). How excited are you?
On a scale of 1 to 10? The answer is EEEEEEEEEEE. I’m REALLY SUPER MEGA CRAZY excited! It’s still hard to believe that this is happening—I’m pretty astounded every time I see one of my books and realize that people other than me are reading them.

Pitch Bad Hair Day in 25 words or less.
Kate Grable learns that something hairy—possibly with claws—is terrorizing her town, and it’s up to her to stop it!

I heard a rumor about a shirtless cookie scene…
I think YA literature needs more shirtless geeks. And cookies. Except that I think the scene has now been edited and is now cookie-less. Would it count if we ate cookies while we ate it? Heck, can I just have some cookies? I’m hungry.

Is Kate different in this second book from how she was in the first book? If so, how?
She’s definitely been affected by what happened to her in book 1. You don’t go on CNN to discuss how you saved the world from the zombocalypse without being changed by the appearance. People treat her differently now. And she’s been in a relationship with Aaron for a few months, so he DEFINITELY treats her differently. That was fun to write; I got to bring on the smoochietime. J

Do you have a teaser sentence or something you can share with us? *bats eyelashes* told me to give you something from page 84, so here it is:

I wormed my hands into a pair of gloves and started assembling the slides. I was just preparing a piece of wet mounted perfection when the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. Someone was watching me. I looked up, half expecting to see a huge, hairy serial crusher, but it was only my brother. It was nice to have a personal guard and all, but something told me his technique of staring at me gape-mouthed wasn’t really going to dissuade any potential intruders.

Some random questions - because I love to be random!

If I told you to use 'cookie', 'orchid', 'bribe' and 'owl' in a short text of a maximum of 5 sentences, what would you make of it?
More cookies? I’ll bribe you not to talk about cookies anymore; my waistline can’t handle it. I could give you an…owl? I tried to summon an orchid, but my magic wand has problems with objects that begin with the letter O. Sorry about that.


If you could open a store and sell anything you want, what would you sell?
I’d love to have a monster themed store. We could sell monster books and t-shirts and stuffed monsters and REAL LIVE MONSTERS. I WANT TO DO THIS.

Who's your favorite Harry Potter character and why?
I have a soft spot for Hagrid. He’s just a teddy bear. A cuddly, half giant teddy bear.

What object is nearest to you right now?
A bottle of Febreze that my daughter was chasing her siblings around with. It’s chaos here at Chez Harris. CHAOS, I TELL YOU.

What's on your computer wallpaper?
It’s a picture of the cast of Zombieland that says, “It’s time to nut up or shut up.” That sentence always cracks me up.

Best book you've read lately?
Over the weekend, I read and loved FOOD, GIRLS, AND OTHER THINGS I CAN’T HAVE by Allen Zadoff. It was heartbreakingly awesome in a PART TIME INDIAN kind of way.

Favorite kind of candy?
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Anything with peanut butter in it will do. And now I’m hungry for cookies AND candy. WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO TO ME?!?!

Anything else you'd like to add?
Just that YOU are awesome! Happy birthday, and thanks for having me!


Thanks so much, Carrie! <3 I laughed really hard during this interview and I think you're amazeballs! 

Since Bad Hair Day won't come out until November, I'm giving away not one, but TWO paperback copies of Bad Taste in Boys! Just fill in the form to be entered in the giveaway.

»» This giveaway is now closed. Winners TBA ««

That's it for today! Make sure you check back tomorrow, because my BBE is far from over!

Birthday question: what's your favorite birthday part/scene in any book you've read? 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

[Daph's BBE] Interview with C.J. Redwine & Giveaway!

Welcome to day 4 of my Birthday Bash Extravaganza! Today I'm having the lovely C.J. Redwine over, author of Defiance which will be published on August 28th (US) and September 6th (UK). It's one of my most anticipated releases of 2012 and I can't wait to get my grabby little hands on it!

Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city’s brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses, host dinner parties, and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father’s apprentice, Logan—the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same boy who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father’s survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.

At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city’s top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor’s impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.

As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can’t be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.

Hi C.J., it's awesome having you over on the blog! Lets get right into the questions, shall we?

What made you want to write?
That's just the way my brain works. I've been making up stories since I was in the second grade and realized it was someone's job to make stuff up and write it down.

What inspired you to write Defiance?
I'd had the image of a Leviathon-like creature living underground for a while. One day I saw a picture of a fortress that reminded me of a city-state and the world of Defiance was born. On a more personal level, once I understood who Rachel was and what was going to happen to her, I committed myself to writing a story about being broken and how to rise out of the ashes of your brokenness and find hope again.

Who is your favorite character in Defiance? Why?
Ack! That's like asking me which of my four kids is my favorite! I honestly love every character, even the evil ones.

Who was the most fun to write?
Logan. It was a challenge to write a character whose go-to response is logic and deduction, but I just love who he is and how awkward he becomes around Rachel.

How would you describe Defiance if you had to pitch it in 25 words?
A girl escapes her tyrannical leader to rescue her father and finds love, heartbreak, and a war two decades in the making.

Short random Qs!

Favorite day of the week?


Favorite fictional character?
The entire cast of Harry Potter.

Favorite TV show?

Favorite book of 2012 so far?
Everneath, Timepiece, Incarnate, Shadow & Bone, & Smart Girls Get What They Want =D (can't pick just one!)

Thanks so much for stopping by on the blog, C.J.! You gain a bazillion points in my book with your answer to who your favorite character is. WIN!


And since this still is my Birthday Bash Extravaganza, I'm giving away a copy of Defiance! Just fill in the form to be entered, and that's it! You can gain extra entries, but they are in no way required to be able to win.

»» This giveaway is now closed. Winner TBA ««

C.J. Redwine loves stilettos, lemon bars, and any movie starring Johnny Depp. She lives in Nashville with her husband, four kids, two cats, and one long-suffering dog. To learn more about C.J., visit her website at

That's it for today's BBE post! Make sure to check back tomorrow for more awesome!

Birthday question: Which book(s) did you get for your last birthday?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

[Daph's BBE] The Twitter Extravaganza

So.. I'm trying something new today. It's a bit crazy, and it might fail miserably, but hey, at least I had fun cooking this stuff up for you!

So what am I going to do? Let's just say that you might want to keep an eye out on Twitter today. If you don't follow me on twitter yet, you can find me here: @lvngbooks. I've prepared some tweets that will go up between 12.00 - 21.00 Amsterdam time (GMT +1) and they will tell you all you need to know to be able to win some goodies.

Monday, August 13, 2012

[Daph's BBE] Character Interview with Zira from Daughter of the Flames & Giveaway!

It's the first day of my Birthday Bash Extravaganza, with which I celebrate my birthday on the 17th! We're kicking off with a character interview with Zira from Daughter of the Flames by Zoë Marriott. Zira is the main character in the first book in the Ruan series, a feisty girl who knows how to handle herself, and I'm very excited that she was able to make some time to stop by!

What if your deadliest enemy were the only one who could save you?

Inside an ancient temple in the mountains, fifteen-year-old Zira trains in the martial arts to become a warrior priestess who can defend the faith of the Ruan people. Bearing a scar on her face from the fire that killed her parents, the orphaned Zira is taught to distrust the occupying Sedornes. Terror strikes when the forces of the tyrannical Sedorne king destroy the only home she knows. To survive, Zira must unravel the secrets of her identity, decide her people’s fate — and accept her growing feelings for a man who should be her enemy.

Hi Zira, it’s lovely meeting you! How are you today? Should I bow?
*Looks worried* No, I don't think... no. If we were being formal, you should probably address me as Reia. But I'm still not entirely used to that, so let us just be comfortable instead. It's very nice to meet you too.

You’ve gone through a pretty hectic time, trying to protect the people of Ruan. How did you experience this? Did it feel natural to you?
In some ways it did. I always intended to fight for my people. To protect those who could not protect themselves. I always intended to be a warrior. I think that is what I have done, what I have become. But I thought I would be following a better leader's orders. I thought that I would be a small part of a larger, greater force. Instead I have become the leader myself, and I have had to make decisions... choices that would affect not just me, or even the ones I care for, but everyone. I have had fight for the right to make those decisions - not just accept leadership, but seize it from those who would have defied me. That has been difficult. There were times when I questioned my right, even my fitness, to rule... it has been a difficult journey, and I thank the Holy Mother for the precious friends she sent to aid me.

Are there things you wish you had done differently?
So many things. I wish that I had studied more, listened more, paid attention more. I had a brilliant foster mother, a great woman. She tried to teach me so much - I realise that now - but I never listened the way I should have. I didn't understand. Perhaps if I had, I would be a wiser, kinder, stronger ruler. I do not think I can ever be all that my people need me to be, all that they deserve. And for myself, I wish that I had spent more time appreciating the peace and simplicity of my former existence. Had I known all that would later occur, I would have treasured every moment of that time.

How would you describe your story in less than 20 words?
Foolish, headstrong girl learns who she is, fights for and against her people, falls in love, and triumphs.

Do you have any funny (or embarrassing) stories about Sorin?
*Bites lips* Don't tell anyone this, will you? He talks in his sleep. Sometimes just mumbling, but sometimes... oh, wonderful, silly things. Once he sang part of a very rude song. Once he called me his flame-eyed goddess. Once he caught my hand and recited half of a lover's speech from a play we had seen the day before. But he never remembers the next day. Sometimes I stay up late, just to listen to him and see what he will say. He has no idea. Don't tell him I said this!

Can you tell us a secret, something that Zoë didn’t put into the book?
I recently learned that Rashna - the girl I grew up with - is...well, she's Surya's daughter. That is what Deo told me. Surya was very young, and the man who had been her lover had been killed in a clash with the Sedorne, so she was all alone. She did not believe she could care for a baby - and in the midst of all the great upheaval in our country then, she felt she had a greater duty to the Rua people and to God. So she gave Rashna up to be raised by the House of God. She didn't want Rashna to know, but Rashna found out somehow. No wonder she always disliked me so much! It was as if I had taken her mother away from her. Before she died, Surya said that I was like a daughter to her... I wonder if she regretted it later, giving her true child away like that? Regretted it when it was too late? I think perhaps that is why she loved me so much. I was like her second chance. But poor Rashna. I realise now why she was so angry all the time... I would have been angry too.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Only that I hear all kinds of interesting things are happening amongst my Royal Hill Guard in the Subira Mountains at the moment. Sorin's cousin is there fighting the remnants of the Sedorne army. I believe the story has been chronicled in a volume called FrostFire. Anyone who liked learning about my country from Daughter of the Flames might enjoy reading that book, too.


Thanks so much for this interview, Zira! I promise I won't tell Sorin about his nightly speeches.. Ha! 

Curious about Daughter of the Flames? Good, because I'm giving away a copy! Just fill in the form to be entered, and that's it! You can earn extra entries, but they are in no way required to be able to win.

»» This giveaway is now closed. Winner TBA ««

If you haven't checked it out already, Zoë has a lovely blog called The Zoë-trope where she writes blog posts that often make me either laugh out loud or pump my first in the air and going "preach it!". Or both. You can also follow her on twitter via @ZMarriott.

Birthday question: if you could only ask for ONE book for your birthday, which would it be and why? 

For more Birthday Bash Extravaganza goodness, make sure to check back tomorrow! The entire week is filled with awesome and giveaways so you might want to come back to see what'll be next :)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Review: City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare 
Published: March 24th, 2009 (Margaret K. McElderry)
Pages: 541
Source: bought
Challenge: none
Series: The Mortal Instruments, #3
Buy the book: Bookdepository
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ ½

Note: this is not the first book in a series, and can therefore contain (minor) spoilers for the previous book(s) in the series. Reading of this review is at your own risk.

To save her mother's life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters - never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight.

As Clary uncovers more about her family's past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadowhunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadowhunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he's willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her newfound powers to help save the Glass City - whatever the cost?

I had been holding out on this one for well over a year because I didn't like the direction the series took after that Stupid Twist in book one. It's all been downhill from there. Where City of Bones started off brilliantly and set the base for what could have been an amazing series, Clare used predictable twists and forseeable turns to spice up the story. City of Glass was a very unsatisfying ending to the original trilogy.

First up, I loved the first book and enjoyed the second book. The writing style reads very easily and I loved the vivid discriptions in Clare's writing, and that's not different in this third book in the series. I read the book in one day, determined to find out what would happen. And I found myself annoyed all the way. There was no way the Plot Twist from book one was real, so I was waiting for that to unravel. What happens to Simon was predictable, as well as the whole Sebastian debacle and the happily ever after idea I got from the last couple of pages.

Which is what annoys me so much. I read it quickly, which means it was interesting enough to keep me going, to say the least. But at times I was just forcing myself to read on because it was all so utterly ridiculous and everything worked out just the way it was supposed to in the end. Both Clary and Jace annoyed the hell out of me with their so-called protectiveness and everyone with half a braincell could see that everything they tried to prevent, would happen anyway.

What I don't understand is why Clare didn't pick a less predictable path. This sure was the way to end the trilogy if you wanted to keep most of the readers happy, but it just left me very unsatisfied in the end. Why was it so difficult to create some elements of surprise in this book? She left me speechless with several scenes in City of Bones, so I know she's capable of doing just that.

I seem to be one of the few who isn't in love with The Mortal Instruments. Everyone is raving about the series and I just can't see what makes this series so amazing. It's bland, the plot predictable and the characters annoying. There's no element of surprise in this book, nothing that will make you go "OMG I can't believe that just happened!" and no emotional moments. Instead, I found myself wondering about real twists that would have made this book more interesting. For one, it had no incest in it.

The reason I gave the book a not-terrible rating is because of the writing style. It's addictive and kept me flipping the pages. Unfortunately, pretty much everything else bothered the hell out of me and because of that, I don't think I'll be reading the rest of the series. There are enough books that are worth my money.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Review: Eternal Rider by Larissa Ione

Eternal Rider by Larissa Ione 
Published: April 1st, 2011 (Grand Central)
Pages: 402
Age group: adult
Source: bought
Challenge: none
Series: Lords of Deliverance, #1
Buy the book: Bookdepository
Rating: ★★★★☆

They are here. They ride. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

His name is Ares, and the fate of mankind rests on his powerful shoulders. If he falls to the forces of evil, the world falls too. As one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, he is far stronger than any mortal, but even he cannot fight his destiny forever. Not when his own brother plots against him.

Yet there is one last hope. Gifted in a way other humans can't-or won't-understand, Cara Thornhart is the key to both this Horseman's safety and his doom. But involving Cara will prove treacherous, even beyond the maddening, dangerous desire that seizes them the moment they meet. For staving off eternal darkness could have a staggering cost: Cara's life.

If you’ve read my reviews on Larissa Ione’s Demonica series, you know that I love her exciting stories. With this first book in the Lords of Deliverance series, she continues the same addictive tales with characters who are just as alluring and intriguing as those in the first series. Because this is a sequel series, we get to see how everything is going with some of the characters from Demonica, which makes it even better. The best of both worlds!

With the Lords of Deliverance, we dive into the world of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who each have a trigger that will break their Seal. Once it does, that particular Horseman turns into his Apocalypse counterpart; War, Famine, Pestilence or Death. He will then try to make one of the other Seals break, which will cause the apocalypse. Which, of course, is undesirable.

In this first book we meet Ares, the Horseman who will be War if his Seal breaks. He is busy trying to find his trigger, and when he finds it, keeping it safe is not as easy as it may seem. Cara is a human with a gift of her own and becomes Ares’ trigger against her will. Together they make a dynamic duo with great chemistry and they set the bar for the rest of the series. It’ll be hard to top this one..

Cara may be a simple human, but that doesn’t make her weak. Even though she doesn’t have the same strength as Ares, she proves herself a feisty character, someone who isn’t willing to give up, not even when she is about to die. She embraces her destiny (though this isn’t the right word), but she refuses to go down without a fight. I loved her determination, her fierceness and most of all the snark she used against Ares. He really needed someone to cause some resistance, and he sure found it in Cara.

I loved the way the hellhounds were woven into this story and I really enjoyed reading about a different kind of demon in this one. I really do hope we get to see some more of the hellhounds, because I think they are fascinating creatures. But seeing where this story ended, I’m sure they’ll be incorporated somewhere in the next couple of books.

In other words, if you have not read Demonica – what are you waiting for?! It’s without a doubt one of my favourite adult paranormal series and Lords of Deliverance is just continuing that love. Larissa Ione is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors, having me beg for more when the book is over. Thankfully I still have two unread books on my shelf.. I’m okay, for a while, until I need my next shot.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Review: Variant by Robison Wells

Variant by Robison Wells 
Published: September 26th, 2011 (HarperTeen)
Pages: 373
Source: bought
Challenge: none
Series: Variant, #1
Buy the book: Bookdepository
Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

Benson Fisher thought that a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life.

He was wrong.

Now he's trapped in a school that's surrounded by a razor-wire fence. A school where video cameras monitor his every move. Where there are no adults. Where the kids have split into groups in order to survive.

Where breaking the rules equals death.

But when Benson stumbles upon the school's real secret, he realizes that playing by the rules could spell a fate worse than death, and that escape--his only real hope for survival--may be impossible.

I had been ogling this book for a pretty long time before I decided to buy it. Then it was just gathering dust on my shelves for months. Until someone picked it as my next read when I finished my previous book. And oh-em-gee was I *glad* to have this book picked! The story is fantastic, with twists and turns everywhere you go, which made it impossible for me to guess where the story was going. It was brilliant.

While I originally thought this was a dystopian novel, I soon realised it’s not – not in the typical sense of a society built after a war/apocalypse at least – but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. The main character, Benson, is a loner, a guy without friends and no real family. He applied for a scholarship at a fancy boarding school, not realising that when he gets there, there’s no getting out. It might sound corny to set the story on a boarding school, but believe me, it’s not. It’s absolutely brilliant. I loved the fact that there were gangs, the plots they schemed and the way everything was organised. And don’t even get me started on the twists Wells throws in there! There was no way I could have seen the ending coming, and boy, did it make me want more.

Benson is a pretty stubborn character, but he’s also rebellious, smart, frustrated and most of all determined to get out of the place. He feels misunderstood, because everyone seems to be okay with being at Maxfield Academy. I loved the fact that he was such a fighter, even though everything worked against him, including the students.

While I was reading Variant, I couldn’t help comparing it to The Maze Runner. It’s like TMR, only in a school. It has a similar vibe, but with more twists and not as predictable – at least, not to me. I pretty much loved everything about it, except I kept wanting more. More twists, more rebellion, more paintball, more pages to the book. It’s very addictive while reading it and honestly, I couldn’t believe it was finished when it was. That ending! Argh.

The sequel will be coming out later this year, and I’ve pre-ordered my copy when I finished Variant. Wells has created a captivating world which will suck you in and have you guessing where you’re going the entire time. And I want more.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Personal Contemporary Challenge

The title really says it all; I’m challenging myself to read more contemporary novels this year. As you may have noticed, I really love my dystopian, paranormal, fantasy and occasional sci-fi, but I tend to neglect the contemporary books that are coming out or have been on my shelves for a long time. So it’s time I step up my game and read some realistic awesomeness!

So here’s the deal. I’m posting this on my blog, so I feel a little pressure to actually do this thing (I seem to need this. It’s a bit sad, really). I’ve challenged myself to read 10 contemporaries before 2013, which means I have 5 months to read those titles. It’s totally doable, I just need to stick with it.

In the past couple of weeks I’ve already tried to read more contemporary, which resulted in me reading Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen, The DUFF by Kody Keplinger and Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry. They were really entertaining reads and I could do with some more. So here’s my list!

- Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
- Torn by Cat Clarke
- Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz
- It’s Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han
- Love Story by Jennifer Echols
- Five Flavours of Dumb by Antony John
- Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
- Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
- Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
- Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler

I might switch it up a bit as the months pass by, just as long as I read at least 10, I should be good. I might skip a couple from my list and read some from the picture instead :) I shall put this in my wrap up posts so you guys know how I’m doing (and again, so I have a little pressure) (also, I just realised I haven’t even done my June wrap up yet. Shame on me.).

Feel free to suggest titles you think I might enjoy. I’m looking forward to reading these books!

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