Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick

It’s been a whirlwind year for Nora Grey. She survived an assassination attempt, discovered she’s related to an ancient line of mythological beings, and fell in love with a fallen angel. To top it all off, she can’t tell her best friend any of it. Vee has to be kept in the dark to protect everyone involved, most of all Patch. If the archangels ever caught on to Nora’s relationship with him, he would be relieved of guardian angel duty and sent to Hell.

Patch is being as discreet as he can, but Nora is beginning to demand answers for questions Patch will not give and explanations for behaviors Patch cannot provide. One thing is clear: rival Marcie Millar is spending far too much time with Patch. Nora will do anything it takes to put a stop to it, even if it means becoming involved in a dangerous situation between two sides of potentially devastating war she doesn’t entirely understand.

I remember being ambivalent weeks after I finished and reviewed Hush, Hush. There were many things I enjoyed, most of all some indescribable attraction I had to the story that kept me flipping pages until before I knew it, I was done. There were also certain elements I felt less sure about: the romance itself, the wild assassination attempt. I don’t have that with its sequel, Crescendo. This was your typical YA Paranormal Romance—a supernatural plot dictated by teen lust and jealousy with larger, otherworldly consequences tied to the protagonist’s romantic relationship.


A Place of Secrets by Rachel Hore

Jude Gower spends her days working in the Books and Manuscripts department at Beecham’s London, a UK auctioneer. She researches antiques and coordinates on behalf of her employer between potential customers, but the company hasn’t been doing well lately. When a call meant to go to her associate is intercepted by Jude, it sets into motion a series of unexpected events with strange connection to her past.

The collection of an 18th Century astronomer could prove to be the boon to Beecham’s slump, but it also wields a strange spell over Jude and her family. A mysterious dream plaguing her during her childhood has returned and seems to be affecting her young niece as well. What could the dream possibly have in common with Anthony Wickham or the elusive figure of Esther, his adopted daughter? Perhaps his missing diaries are more important than Jude realizes.

A Place of Secrets is a mild thriller and suspense novel with a touch of mystery to support the overarching ghostly influences surrounding the protagonist and her family. There is also a romantic element that offsets the supernatural ones and brings a personal approach to Jude’s life outside of work and research. With a meandering plot revolving around Esther and Wickham’s journal’s and Jude’s complicated personal life, this book began to feel like it was really two masquerading as one. The result is a novel that’s very long for what it is, but one that enjoys the scenic route.

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Eleven by Mark Watson

The Blurb On The Back:

One moment – Eleven lives
Endless consequences

Find out how eleven lives are affected by a single chain of events in this extraordinary new novel by one of Britain’s best-loved comedians.

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The Verdict:

Mark Watson’s novel is a moving story about eleven strangers brought together by circumstance and while some aspects of it didn’t quite work for me, it was still an absorbing read and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

ELEVEN was released in the UK in August. Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the free copy of this book.

Cross-posted to bookish, books, bookworming and thereadingroom.
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Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

The Blurb On The Back:

Falling for the fallen ...

For Nora Grey, romance was never part of the plan. Not until Patch came along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgement.

But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora isn’t sure if she can trust him. Patch seems to be everywhere she is and to know more about her than her closest friends. And when she tries to seek answers, she discovers she is right in the middle of a centuries-old battle between the immortal and the fallen ... and it’s time to take sides ...

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The Verdict:

If you’re already into YA paranormal romance then this is the type of book you’ll probably enjoy. However I found the plot formulaic, the twists too obvious and the romantic male lead, far from being attractive, comes across as someone who needs a punch in the nadges. It’s already a bestseller and its fans will be slavering for its sequel, Crescendo, but I will most definitely not be reading on.

Cross-posted to bookish, cool_teen_reads, fantasywithbite, urbanfantasyfan and yalitlovers.
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Day By Day Armageddon: Beyond Exile by J. L. Bourne

The Blurb On The Back:

Armies of undead have risen up across the U.S. and around the globe: there is no safe haven from the diseased corpses hungering for human flesh. But in the heat of a Texas wasteland, a small band of survivors attempt to counter the millions closing in around them.


Day by day, the handwritten journal entries of one man caught in a worldwide cataclysm capture the desperation – and the will to survive – as he joins forces with a handful of refugees to battle soulless enemies both human and inhuman from inside an abandoned strategic missile facility.


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The Verdict:

Although there isn’t a huge amount of emotional depth to the story and the plot is a simple one, this is an absorbing story of survival against incredible odds and the author’s military background gives it great credibility. With the book’s climax promising a switch of location to China and a hunt for the cause of the outbreak in the concluding volume of this trilogy, I will definitely be tuning in to see how things turn out for the unnamed hero.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the free copy of this book.

Cross-posted to bookish, books, bookworming and horror_novels.
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Ice by Sarah Beth Durst

Far to the north in the ice and snow of the Arctic plains is the Eastern Beaufort Research Sea Station, it’s head scientist, and his daughter, Cassandra “Cassie” Dasent. Her grandmother moved away years ago and her mother is gone. To explain her absence, Cassie has been raised with bedtime fairy tales about a Polar Bear King, the North Wind, and his only daughter. The stories are romantic and distracting, meant to ease Cassie’s loss despite her father’s displeasure at his mother-in-law filling his daughter’s head with nonsense. And so the stories are told during stolen moments in the hours when Cassie’s father is busy at the lab, when her grandmother tucks her into bed and orates what Cassie believes to be nothing more than fairy tale…

( Read the rest of this review at Jawas Read, Too! )
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The Demon’s Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan

The Blurb On The Back:

Mae’s life has spun out of control.

She’s just learned that her brother Jamie is a magician and Nick, the boy she’d set her heart on, has an even darker secret.

Jamie has been meeting with the new leader of the Obsidian Circle, who is hell-bent on persuading Jamie to join the magicians. When Mae calls on Nick and Alan to save her brother, the Circle sets in motion a plot to bring Nick down – by convincing his own brother to spring a deadly trap.

With brother set against brother and everyone’s loyalties divided, Mae sees a chance to save them all – but it means approaching the mysterious and dangerous Goblin Market alone ...

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The Verdict:

A disappointing sequel to the promise of THE DEMON’S LEXICON, this sees Mae become much more of a stereotypical love interest rather than the strong independent character she was in the first book. Told through her eyes, there’s a curious passivity to the story, with the most interesting events happening off-page. There are some clever lines and good moments, but it’s not enough to turn it around and while I’ll read the concluding volume, this just didn’t meet my expectations.

Cross-posted to bookish, cool_teen_reads, fantasywithbite, urbanfantasyfan and yalitlovers.

The Red Queen (Cousin's War 02) by Philippa Gregory (2010)

In the second novel in this series about the Wars of the Roses, Philippa Gregory switches her focus from the House of York to the House of Lancaster and specifically to Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry Tudor, later Henry VII.

Margaret tells her own story from the age of nine and emerges quickly as a deeply religious young woman who would have welcomed a life within the Church. Instead, due to her royal lineage, she is required to make an advantageous marriage with another family of the royal line. Thus, she is married at the age of twelve to Edmund Tudor, who was twice her age. This union resulted in her giving birth when she was thirteen to her only child, Henry. Edmund died in captivity when Margaret was pregnant. When another marriage was arranged by her family a few years later she was required to leave Henry in Wales to be raised by his uncle, Jasper Tudor.

As time passes Margaret's desire to see the House of Lancaster restored to its position and her son claim the throne of England becomes an all consuming obsession. She is quite willing for those who stand between Henry and the crown to die and to see the entire country plunged into bloody warfare to achieve this end. As the narrative progresses Margaret as the Red Queen and Elizabeth Neville as the White Queen take on an almost archetypal quality as if they are queens in a game of chess that will determine the future of England.

Margaret Beaufort's sense of self-righteousness and ruthless ambition was quite astonishing. Even though the young Margaret in her girlish devotion to Joan of Arc was sympathetic, I found myself getting quite emotional as the novel continued and my dislike of Margaret grew and grew, especially when she and Lord Thomas Stanley joined forces. Of course, the outcome and Margaret's triumph is a matter of history. In the final chapters of the book, the perspective leaves Margaret to observe the unfolding of the fateful events of August 1485 . Again, as I noted with The White Queen, Gregory handles battle scenes well. I've seen the re-enactment at Bosworth Fields a few times and she really brought it to life on the page.

My ARC didn't have the end-notes that Gregory usually provides though I popped out to see the book on the shelf yesterday. As with The White Queen, Gregory includes details of her main sources, suggestions for further reading and of course a reminder that this is a work of historical fiction and as such is a combination of historical truth, informed speculation and the author's imagination.

While I was reading, the image that came to my mind for this series was of a set of vibrant, living tapestries; each providing a different view on the theme of royal women connected to Wars of the Roses. If Elizabeth Woodville's tapestry teemed with images of nature, flowing water, magic and love; then by contrast Margaret's weaves in images of piety, worship, fire and battles. I was pleased to read that Philippa Gregory intends to write at least four more books in this series bringing her considerable talent as a story-teller as well as her passion and integrity to this complex and rich period of history.

Official Wars of the Roses Books Site - has links to background information and excerpt.
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The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

Margaret Beaufort is fervently religious and prays every day, often multiple times. She’s been raised to be a devout girl and to trust in God, especially since she believes when her mother tells her it’s God’s wish she rise to royalty—that she deserves to fulfill a role ordained to her by birth. She has two desires in life: to sign her name Margaret R. (for Regina, or Queen) and to become Joan of Arc. The hindsight of history allows us to indulge in the curious inclinations of this most famous mother, but for Margaret, the journey is an uphill struggle. It’s difficult to claim her rightful place in history when Yorks and Lancasters are at each other’s throats, refusing to recognize the supremacy of the rightful royal heir: her son, Henry Tudor.

( Read the rest of this review )
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The Demon's Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan

Mae and Jamie have returned to their home in Exeter, England. It’s been a few months since Alan and Nick helped remove the demon’s mark left on Jamie—too long when life with Annabel (Mae’s mother) is compared to life with the Ryves brothers. Her tidy household is as spotless as her reputation; her appearance is planned and articulated with tact and social grace the utmost of considerations. She’s predictable and polite, a far cry from the random bursts of violence and deeply consequential tempers Mae recently adjusted to.

Annabel probably doesn’t have anything more alarming hidden in her pockets than used tissue—and that she’s probably already thrown away. In short, she’s nothing at all like Alan or Nick. Mae, with her pink hair and rebellious attitude, doesn’t have to suffer long under her mother’s disapproving gaze. Jamie’s been acting suspicious and when Mae discovers who he’s been having secret rendezvous with, she’s alarmed. Lucky for her, contacting the authorities means the opportunity to dance inside of mythological Tintagel and coming nose-to-nose with a Pied Piper.

( Read the rest of the review? )