FrostFire ~ Zoë Marriott

  • Title: FrostFire
  • Author: Zoë Marriott
  • Series: Ruan #2
  • Genre: Fantasy, PNR
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Emma, Guest Reviewer
  • Rating: 5 out of 5

Description:  Frost is cursed – possessed by a wolf demon that brings death everywhere she goes. Desperate to find a cure, she flees her home, only to be captured by the Ruan Hill Guard. Trapped until she can prove she is not an enemy, Frost grows increasingly close to the Guard’s charismatic leader Luca and his second in command, the tortured Arian. Torn between two very different men, Frost fears that she may not be able to protect either of them … from herself.

Review:  I really loved this book. It’s not often that I find a book that I love from the first page to the last page and every page in between but Frostfire was one of those few.

We follow the misfortunes of seventeen year old Frost. She’s alone in a hostile world, believing that she is cursed and is just trying to survive while passing through life unnoticed. Everything changes for Frost when she stumbles across an ambush that she mistakenly intervenes in and meets the two young warriors who will change the course of her life.

I don’t like giving away spoilers so that’s all I’ll say about the story. However, I will talk about why I liked this book so much. Frost is a complex lead character with believable flaws and formidable strengths. Marriott has obviously spent a lot of time building layers of back-story that shape the person Frost is when we meet her and the person we see her become over the course of the story. Snippets of Frost’s early life are revealed to us in a series of flashbacks which are woven seamlessly into the narrative of the story. Marriott really makes you feel the desolate and loveless life that was Frost’s childhood. Strangely, though, you never feel pity for her; you feel empathy for her. The choices Frost makes throughout the story, whether good or bad, are all in keeping with her character.

The two male characters are also as complex but are complete opposites to each other. Luca and Arian are friends, brothers in arms, but one is portrayed as goodness personified while the other is much darker. The way Marriott chooses to deal with this is to make you question what makes a person good or bad. I really enjoyed the interaction between the three and thought Marriott made their individual and collective relationships work.

The quality of the writing really stood out to me in the best possible way. I didn’t notice the writing. At no point did it jar me, confuse me or irritate me. I didn’t have to backtrack to clarify what I was reading, I didn’t swear once because of bad word choices or poor structure. The writing never pulled me out of the story. Instead, it provided a favourite-comfy-jumper-type atmosphere in which I could just sit back and enjoy the story that was being told. Props to Ms Marriott! A final word on the writing. Although this book is a YA book, in my opinion it is simply a good book. She doesn’t patronize her readers. Her writing style is simplistic yet mature and evocative. I really admire her writing and her story telling.

All told, I would certainly recommend this book to anyone that wants a good read. I can’t wait to track down Zoe Marriott’s other books. I only wish there were more of them.

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Fear Nothing ~ Dean Koontz

  • Title: Fear Nothing
  • Author: Dean Koontz
  • Series: Moonlight Bay #1
  • Genre: Horror, Mystery
  • Format: Hardback
  • Source: Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Emma, Guest Reviewer
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  Fear, compassion, evil, courage, hope, wonder, the exquisite terror of not knowing what will happen on the next page to characters you care about deeply—these are the marvels that Dean Koontz weaves into the unique tapestry of every novel. His storytelling talents have earned him the devotion of fans around the world, making him one of the most popular authors of our time, with more than 200 million copies of his books sold worldwide.

If you are already a fan, prepare yourself to settle into a novel Dean Koontz considers perhaps his best work to date. If you are a brand-new Dean Koontz reader, buckle up for what will be a most breathtaking ride through the long, enthralling night of…

Christopher Snow is different from all the other residents of Moonlight Bay, different from anyone you’ve ever met. For Christopher Snow has made his peace with a very rare genetic disorder shared by only one thousand other Americans, a disorder that leaves him dangerously vulnerable to light. His life is filled with the fascinating rituals of one who must embrace the dark. He knows the night as no one else ever will, ever can—the mystery, the beauty, the many terrors, and the eerie, silken rhythms of the night—for it is only at night that he is free.

Until the night he witnesses a series of disturbing incidents that sweep him into a violent mystery only he can solve, a mystery that will force him to rise above all fears and confront the many-layered strangeness of Moonlight Bay and its residents.

Once again drawing daringly from several genres, Dean Koontz has created a narrative that is a thriller, a mystery, a wild adventure, a novel of friendship, a rousing story of triumph over severe physical limitations, and a haunting cautionary tale.

Review:  Though I’ve read this book before, I really didn’t remember the details. I did remember Christopher Snow and I really like the parameters that Dean Koontz has set for this character. Night scenes in scary books are always more sinister, but having the protagonist be allergic to the sun is an intriguing proposition. Usually, the night creatures in books and films are the antagonist, where they can exercise their formidable, if somewhat vicious and sadistic, advantages over their poor unsuspecting victims.

Here, Koontz gives our protagonist the night, but he does not give him supernatural powers with which to defend himself against the sinister forces in the story. In fact, he gives him nothing other than a personality that we can admire and an emotionally sensitive dog (whom I love).

Though I do agree that he spends rather a lot of the book inside Snowman’s head, I like that. It is a constant reminder that Christopher Snow is alone in the world. He has his dog, his friend, and his girlfriend, but being alone is what has made Christopher Snow into the person that he is. His condition has always kept him on the periphery of what is perceived as “normal life” and, in this instance, I think it aids the haunting atmosphere of the story.

With many other books, I may find this amount of telling as opposed to showing to be tedious, but the quality of Koontz’s writing keeps me immersed in the story, almost as though I am watching events unfold from just behind the Snowman’s shoulder. I’ve really enjoyed reading it again but, if I’m honest, it’s not one of my favourite Dean Koontz books.

Cinder ~ Marissa Meyer

  • Title: Cinder
  • Author: Marissa Meyer
  • Series: Lunar Chronicles #1
  • Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi
  • Format: eBook
  • Source: Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Emma, Guest Reviewer
  • Rating: 5 out of 5

Description:  Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Review:  Well, what to say about this book!

I love reading books with beautiful prose and vivid descriptions that paint pretty pictures in your mind and carry you away somewhere else.

This book is not one of them.

This book seems to have taken the other route, the route where the author focuses on the story more than the prose, the characterization rather than the setting. This is not writing by numbers, this is writing by feel.

Cinder is an intelligently written story and I like the choices that Meyer makes throughout the book. The writing is clean and simple in the best way possible, you barely notice the writing. It flows, it’s smooth, it’s secondary to the telling of the story. It’s not distracting. Meyer gives you just enough for your mind to fill in the rest. She is not showy with her skill, and I believe it takes a skilled writer to write in such a minimalist way and for the story not to suffer for it. Instead of being carried away by pretty writing, it’s the story itself – and the way Meyer tells it – that draws you in. If she would have written in flowery prose it would have read like the original fairytale, and a fairytale this book is not. Meyer hasn’t re-written Cinderella, Meyer has taken all of the pertinent moments from Cinderella and re-invented it.

If The Brother’s Grimm were only now writing the fairytale of Cinderella, this is the story they would write.

Bravo, Marissa Meyer.

Days of Blood & Starlight ~ Laini Taylor

  • Title: Days of Blood & Starlight
  • Author: Laini Taylor
  • Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2
  • Genre: UF, PNR, YA
  • Format: Hardback
  • Source: Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Emma, Guest Reviewer
  • Rating: 5 out of 5

Description:  Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

Review:  Wow! My heart is racing! This book…this series…is magic conjured by the written word. It left me breathless. I’m so jealous of Ms Taylor’s skill. So beautifully does she weave words, this book has to be called art.

Karou’s journey continues in book two right from where it left off in book one. Everything has changed. She is alone, separated from all her loved ones and forced into dealing with someone she would otherwise choose to avoid. And Akiva’s betrayal has left her altered: hard, vengeful, broken.

Desperate to save the chimaera from extinction at the hands of the Seraphim, Karou tries to turn off her feelings for Akiva and focus instead on rebuilding, re-conjuring a chimaeran army. But her loneliness, her devastation and heartbreak are palpable and they crawl off the page like a living thing. Laini Taylor makes sympaths of us all as we feel what Karou feels.

What makes it all the more impressive is that the book is written in third person narrative and flits between different perspectives, yet is still personal enough to absorb the reader. At no point does the writing become confused or tricky to follow. It flows seamlessly from one thread to the next, as unnoticed as a tear in lace mended by a master with a needle.

The pace of the book initially feels slow, but as I continued to read I realized that quite a lot was actually happening, just in such a way as it felt effortless. The reading was so pleasurable that I just wanted it to keep going. With a lot of good books you’re so desperate to find out what happens next that you wish the book away, rush through the pages. This book, however, is so beautifully written and cleverly paced that, though you really want to know what happens next, the experience of reading this book is equally as satisfying as having your curiousity sated. Very few books engender this type of response in me that I relish it when it does.

I could go on but instead I’m just going to say this: if you want a book that will in turn make you gasp, make you sigh, make you cry and make you cheer, you have to read Days of Blood and Starlight. It’s breathtaking.

Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves ~ Matthew Reilly

  • Title: Scarcrow and the Army of Thieves
  • Author: Matthew Reilly
  • Series: Scarecrow #5
  • Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Adventure
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Emma, Guest Reviewer
  • Rating: 5 out of 5

Description:  At an abandoned military base in the Arctic, a battle to save the world has begun…

THE SECRET BASE Known only as Dragon Island, this long-forgotten relic of the Cold War houses a weapon of terrible destructive force. And it has just been reactivated.

A RENEGADE ARMY When Dragon Island is seized by terrorists, the fate of the world hangs in the balance.

ONE SMALL TEAM The only unit close enough to avert disaster is an equipment-testing team led by a Marine captain named Schofield, call-sign SCARECROW. They are not equipped to attack a fortified island held by a small army but will go in anyway – because someone has to.

THE ULTIMATE HERO IS BACK, FACING THE ULTIMATE ARMY OF VILLAINS.

Review:  I absolutely loved this book. Matthew Reilly is my favourite action writer. He has the ability to grab you by the throat and not let go until the book is finished.

I have to say I’m really glad Scarecrow is back, I’ve missed him. The title is a bit naff but that does not reflect on the contents at all. The Army of Theives picks up from where the last one left off.

Scarecrow has been sent to the Arctic to test prototype equipment almost as a punishment for his escapades. The French are out for his blood and it makes sense to have him as far away as possible. It also means he is there with a mixture of Army guys and civilians.

This sets things up very well for what is to come, though I will not give any spoilers about the story. Permit me to say, though, how happy I was to see the return of Mother, and the additions of Baba and Bertie were inspired. I’ll be interested to see what happens with Champion as well.

Please remember, Matthew Reilly writes FICTION. You must temporarily suspend belief when reading one of his books. They are not intended to be educational aids. They are FUN!!! And boy, is this book fun.

I must caution you, though, there are some torture scenes that are extremely graphic and even I found myself skimming those pages. However, they are not purely gratuitous so don’t be put off.

I hope this is not the last we see of Scarecrow, Mother, Baba and Bertie. It was a rollercoaster read that I didn’t put down until it was finished.