Sinners & Shadowmen: When Stars Die by Amber Skye Forbes

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Amelia Gareth’s brother is a witch and the only way to save her family from the taint in his blood is to become a professed nun at Cathedral Reims in the snowy city of Malva. However, in order to become professed, she must endure trials that all nuns must face.

Surviving these trials is not easy, especially for Amelia, who is being stalked by shadowy beings only she can see. They’re searching for people they can physically touch, because only those they can touch can see them. Amelia soon learns why she is being stalked when she accidentally harms her best friend with fire during the third trial. Fire is a witch’s signature. The shadows are after witches.

Now Amelia must decide what to do: should she continue on her path to profession knowing there is no redemption, or should she give up on her dream and turn away from Cathedral Reims in order to stop the shadows who plan to destroy everything she loves?

I have been following Amber Skye Forbes’ blog for a short while but I hadn’t read much about the actual plot of her forthcoming debut When Stars Die. What I did know is that Amber’s all into ballet and stuff, the title sounds magical and the cover is pretty so when the opportunity came up to get an advanced copy to review I was thrilled and as soon as I started reading I knew instantly that this book was absolutely nothing like I was expecting.

From the very beginning it’s clear that this isn’t going to be a happy, soppy love story. Amber created a dark, mysterious and ominous atmosphere right from the get-go and I was entranced. Amelia is at Cathedral Reims -such a great name- where she is undergoing trials to prove that she deserves to be, and can handle the life of a nun. Straight away I was glued, the main leaders or teachers (whatever you’d like to call them) Mother Aureilia and Theosodore came across as incredibly sinister and cold, and the trials themselves were a lot nastier and darker than I would have first imagined.

And then, as you’d imagine, the plot thickens!

I loved the idea of the Shadowmen prowling around Cathedral Reims looking for witches and when Colette bursts into flames I had surprised cat face for at least 5 seconds. We soon come to realise that this world is nothing like ours.

People are born witches as a punishment to parents who have sinned, so basically there’s a whole lot of witches! And when witches die they become Shadowmen, and the whole thing is driven by the evil, manipulative God Deus. Now, I’m not religious but I am fascinated by it and I thought the ideas and themes here were really interesting. I can honestly say that I’ve never read anything quite like this, which is something you don’t get to say very often.

That being said, there were a lot of things that hindered my enjoyment as the book went on. When Stars Die is set in the 1800s but it’s written in a modern style. I’m not usually a stickler for things like that but I frequently found words and phrases that I couldn’t help but go ‘surely that wouldn’t have been said in the 1800s?’ It distracted me a little.

I also felt the dialogue let it down slightly as it didn’t seem very natural to me and I wished I liked Amelia more as a protagonist. She didn’t really do anything wrong but I felt I couldn’t warm to her because other than being there to save her brother’s soul I wasn’t convinced by any of the motivations for her actions. I never really got to know her as a person.

I wouldn’t classify this as a paranormal romance, as it was a pretty bad romance but the setting and Amber’s descriptions of the world she has created here were really what made this book for me. That and the genius idea to use first person – present tense really made it stand out. It was a unique read and the Epilogue has certainly intrigued me enough to look forward to the sequel.

Details: E-book, 267 Pages. Released 22nd October 2013 by AEC Stellar Publishing
Unicorn Rating: 3 out of 5 (if I could chop one in half to make it 3.5 I would, but I can’t chop up a unicorn)
Is it a keeper? Yes
If you liked this try: I don’t know why but Gormenghast was the first thing that came to mind. So I’m going with it.

Coming Soon!

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Title: Let the Games Begin
Author:Niccolò Ammaniti
Details: Translated
Expected Publication: 1st August 2013 by Canongate Books

In Let the Games Begin, internationally best-selling author Niccolò Ammaniti, winner of the prestigious Strega Prize, fuses a riotous dose of anarchic absurdity with a clear-eyed critique of contemporary society caught in a narcissistic spiral of longing and striving.

It begins on the night of the most decadent party of the century. A rags-to-riches real estate magnate has planned an over-the-top weekend safari for the who’s-who of celebrities at his sprawling residence in Villa Ada—once a public park, now the largest private home in Rome. Starlets, politicians, soccer stars, and intellectuals all turn up to rub elbows. Among them is a neurotically charming author struggling to write his next literary tome and pining for renewed recognition. In an unexpected turn of events, he crosses paths with The Wilde Beasts of Abaddon, a satanic sect planning to ruin the evening’s festivities in order to go down in history as a world-famous cult. What was intended as the most spectacular fête of the year quickly descends into apocalyptic chaos. In this satirical tragicomedy, Ammaniti reveals a side of modern culture riddled with superficiality and vulgarity that nourishes our deepest dreams and insecurities.

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Title: The Wolves of Midwinter (The Wolf Gift Chronicles #2)
Author: Anne Rice
Details: Hardback
Expected Publication: November 7th 2013 by Random House UK, Vintage Publishing

It is the beginning of December and it is cold and grey outside. In the stately flickering hearths of the grand mansion of Nideck Point, oak fires are burning. The Morphenkinder are busy getting ready for the ancient pagan feast of midwinter. Everyone is invited, including some of their own who do not wish them well…

Reuben Golding, the newest of the Morphenkinder, is struggling with his new existence as a Man Wolf, struggling to learn to control his desires and bloodthirsty urges. His pure, luminous girlfriend Laura seems all set to join him in this new way of life, but Reuben is not at all certain he will love her if she becomes as he is. Beyond the mansion, the forest echoes with howling winds, which carry with them tales of a strange nether world, and of spirits – centuries old – who possess their own fantastical ancient histories and taunt with their dark, magical powers.

As preparations for the feast gather pace, destiny continues to hound Reuben, not least in the form of a strange, tormented ghost who appears at the window, unable to speak. But he is not alone: before the festivities are over, choices must be made – choices which will decide the fate of the Morphenkinder for ever.

I’m really excited about both of these!

Chastity & Chainmail: Daughter of Camelot (Empire of Shadows #1) by Glynis Cooney

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Filled with terrific suspense and budding romance, Daughter of Camelot is a fast paced adventure set against the turmoil at the end of the Arthurian era.

Raised in the shadow of a fort dedicated to training Knights of the Round Table, Deirdre thirsts for adventure.

Instead, at 14, she is sent to court to learn the etiquette and talents of a young woman.

Court life, however, is more fraught with danger than she expected, and Deirdre finds herself entangled in a deadly conspiracy that stretches deep into the very heart of Camelot.

All Deirdre thought she knew and believed in—loyalty, love, bravery—is challenged when she embarks on a quest to defy Fate and save the King.

I’d actually say that Daughter of Camelot is quite a gentle-paced book but I don’t mean that in a bad way. I was never bored. I read most of this on Sunday afternoon and it was a perfect read for a lazy day. I loved it.

Deirdre is everything I like in a protagonist. She’s bored and down-right aggravated by the limitations of being a girl in those times. She has little interest in being just a wife or mother and her ambition knows no bounds. She seeks a life of excitement and meaning and growing up surrounded by boys in training to be knights at a nearby fort only makes her desire for adventure stronger.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the darker elements of the story. For one, I wasn’t expecting Deirdre’s new life at court to be so intense. Just like Deirdre herself, I imagined she would go there as a guest to the king & queen and flit around in pretty dresses wooing noble knights and attending parties but that was far from the truth!

With growing worries about the allegiances of the court – For King Arthur or against him- the obsessive practices of Christianity imposed by the unsavory King Maelgwyn, and sexually aggressive knights hoping to sully Deirdre’s reputation, her new life was far from simple. And just one mistake gets her banished from the castle, leading her to take up Sir Einion’s invitation to join him at Din Arth.

I quite liked Einion as a love interest, but after seeing how awful all of the other knights behaved it was definitely hard to trust him. I think it’s clear from the start that Deirdre’s best friend Ronan would be a better pick for her and I enjoyed seeing how the relationships developed.

As Daughter of Camelot neared its end I did think that perhaps it was unnecessarily long, especially for its target audience, but then it did had a lot of scope. My one issue with it though, was that I felt the final battle was a bit of an anti-climax. But it certainly wouldn’t put me off reading the next in the series, quite the opposite in fact.

I’m a fan of Arthurian Literature and obvs a fan of YA Lit so it didn’t take much for me to love this book but I think anyone who enjoys being swept along on a medieval action-adventure will find a lot to like here.

Details: Paperback, 421 pages.
Expected publication: September 24th 2013 by Mabon Publishing
Unicorn Rating: 4/5
Is it a keeper? Yes!
If you like this try: The Seeing Stone – Kevin Crossley-Holland

*Cover Reveal* When Stars Die by Amber Skye Forbes

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Title: When Stars Die
Author: Amber Skye Forbes
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Release: October 2013 by AEC Stellar Publishing
Book Design: Viola Estrella of Estrella Cover Art

Amelia Gareth’s brother is a witch and the only way to save her family from the taint in his blood is to become a professed nun at Cathedral Reims in the snowy city of Malva. However, in order to become professed, she must endure trials that all nuns must face.

Surviving these trials is not easy, especially for Amelia, who is being stalked by shadowy beings only she can see. They’re searching for people they can physically touch, because only those they can touch can see them. Amelia soon learns why she is being stalked when she accidentally harms her best friend with fire during the third trial. Fire is a witch’s signature. The shadows are after witches.

Now Amelia must decide what to do: should she continue on her path to profession knowing there is no redemption, or should she give up on her dream and turn away from Cathedral Reims in order to stop the shadows who plan to destroy everything she loves?

You can find Amber on:

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WWW Wednesday! (17-09-2013)

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To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading? • What did you recently finish reading? • What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading:
When Stars Die by Amber Skye Forbes: This ARC SO different to what I was expecting. Seriously riveted! More on this later 🙂

Recently Finished:
I had a v. productive week last week. Whoop.
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The Eye of the Moon (Bourbon Kid #2) by Anonymous: Another insane, darkly hilarious violent thriller/horror by this particular Anonymous. My review is here.

Daughter of Camelot by Glynis Cooney. LOVED this YA novel set at the tumultuous end of the Arthurian Era. Review to follow.

And I also finished rereading City of Bones before I went to see the film. My review/rant is here.

Up Next:
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The Polaris Whisper by Kenneth Gregory. Really looking forward to this ARC.

It is a dark time. For decades Hakon the Black, the most feared Norse Lord of the ninth century, has conducted bloody and gruesome raids throughout Europe, and laid his claim upon the seas. But it is also a time of hope.

In the frozen wastelands of the north, Vidar searches for the Vestibule of Light. Alone, freezing and exhausted, he pushes on through the endless winter in the belief that once his quest is complete, he may return to the life he has left behind, and to Niclaus, the son he was forced to abandon. For Niclaus has a greater destiny – one foretold by Cado, the enigmatic Small Walker – and Vidar is but one player in the boy’s life. Cado has enlisted the help of protectors from all corners of the Earth to shield Niclaus: men whose worlds are connected by only the loosest of threads.

But as Niclaus becomes older, and the various worlds begin to converge, will Vidar and Cado have to make sacrifices beyond imagining to protect those they love.

Leave the link to your post in the comments below 🙂

Bloody Good Fun (pun intended): The Eye of the Moon (Bourbon Kid #2) by Anonymous – A Mini-Review.

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Following a massive rampage that left the streets of Santa Mondega soaked with blood, the elusive supernatural serial killer known only as the Bourbon Kid is now himself being haunted. Hot on his heels are several vampire gangs, the Secret Service, a couple of werewolves, corrupt cops, and the Dark Lord himself, and none will rest until he is dead. But the Kid has a vengeance of his own to wreak, and young lovers Dante and Kacy, hapless bartender Sanchez, Peto the Hubal monk, and the mysterious Jessica will each be drawn into the escalating vortex of violence.

Let me start by saying that this book is not for everyone.

  • If gory, mindless violence offends you, you shouldn’t read this book.
  • If colourful, constant swearing offends you, you shouldn’t read this book.
  • If laughing at religion and sexism offends you, you shouldn’t read this book.

And most importantly, if you only like your vampires to be the sparkly kind, you really shouldn’t read this book.

However….

If the idea of Elvis as a Hitman, a vampire clan of corrupt cops called the Filthy Pigs, a useless rap-star werewolf and a cowardly bartender who serves his own piss instead of whisky sounds like your idea of a party, then you are going to LOVE this series.

If you’ve seen any of the Tarantino/Rodriguez Grindhouse films or trailers, imagine the most ridiculous and gory one, convert it to a novel and BAM – there it is. If you have no idea what I’m referring to then this quote from the back of the book also sums it up pretty well:

Possibly drug-induced lunacy of a book – 4 stars” [Zoo Magazine]

With all of these ridiculous, mainly evil characters trying to get their hands on the Eye of the Moon and avoid The Bourbon Kid at all costs, this sequel to The Book With No Name is a fast-paced blackest-of-black comedy that is a whole lot of fun. I felt that the plot wasn’t quite as strong as the first book but I enjoyed finding out more about The Bourbon Kid and where he came from and I hope I can get my hands on the next one in series soon.

Details: Paperback, 384 pages. Published April 1st 2009 by Michael O’Mara (first published 2008)
Unicorn Rating: 4/5
Is it a keeper? Yes!
Start With: The Book With No Name.

Top Ten Tuesday #4: Top ten books on my to-be-read pile this Autumn

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish (Click the image to visit them). This week the theme is Top Ten Books on my to-be-read pile this Autumn.

These aren’t all necessarily new books, but they are the ones I have lined up that I am most exited to read in the next few months.

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Feel free to leave a comment with the link to your TTT post so I can check them out!