Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor

Title: Lips Touch: Three Times
Author: Laini Taylor, Illustrator: Jim Di Bartolo
Rating: ★★★★★
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
Description: (From Goodreads) Three tales of supernatural love, each pivoting on a kiss that is no mere kiss, but an action with profound consequences for the kissers' souls:
-Goblin Fruit: In Victorian times, goblin men had only to offer young girls sumptuous fruits to tempt them to sell their souls. But what does it take to tempt today's savvy girls?
-Spicy Little Curses: A demon and the ambassador to Hell tussle over the soul of a beautiful English girl in India. Matters become complicated when she falls in love and decides to test her curse.
-Hatchling: Six days before Esme's fourteenth birthday, her left eye turns from brown to blue. She little suspects what the change heralds, but her small safe life begins to unravel at once. What does the beautiful, fanged man want with her, and how is her fate connected to a mysterious race of demons?


As you can see from the description, this is a young adult collection of three short stories. First, let me say that Di Bartolo's illustrations were amazing. I really loved the artwork in this book, not to mention the lovely formatting, so much that I already ordered the hardcover just so that I can have it in my collection (the copy I read was from the library). As for the stories themselves, I think each one superseded the last. It's hard for me to choose, but I think the third one, "Hatchling," was my favorite.

This is probably my second favorite book so far this year, behind Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate) by Gail Carriger. I saw some reviews complaining that the stories in "Lips Touch: Three Times" were too simple. To that I only have two things to say: 1) the vast majority of fairy-tales are simple stories, and these were clearly intended to be fairy-tales (if you go back and read any of the fairy-tales by the Brothers Grimm, they were often extremely short and simply told); 2), this book was written for young adults and labeled "juvenile fiction." It can definitely be appreciated and enjoyed by adults, but you have to go into it with the understanding that this book was written with a teenage audience in mind. If you’re a fan of folklore or fairy-tales and you go into this with an open mind, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. In my opinion, a story doesn’t have to be complicated to be good.

With all that being said, this book is not for everyone; however, Laini Taylor has an incredible writing style, so vivid and beautiful and descriptive. I had to jot down some of the quotes from it into my book journal, I liked it so much. She pulled from some more obscure folklore and ancient religions to create something completely her own and I adore the result. I definitely plan on reading more by this author! If you like authors like Kim Wilkins, Robin McKinley, Juliet Marillier, and other authors who specialize in re-telling fairy-tales, you should enjoy this.

Content Description

Sex and nudity - Some sensuality. Sex and rape are discussed, but not in great detail. Some nudity.
Violence and gore - Mild violence. Death is mentioned repeatedly. One story contains zombie-like creatures who eat kittens/animals and resort to cannibalism. One story discusses slaughtering animals.
Alcohol and drugs - One of the characters is a teenage cigarette smoker. I believe a bottle of wine is mentioned.
Profanity - None that I remember.
Frightening/intense scenes - Some parts are somewhat dark. One story partly takes place in Hell. There are demons, goblins, and other creatures. One story describes children being taken as pets and kept in cages. In that same story, the captors have the ability to leave their bodies in spirit form and take over other bodies. A scene is mentioned in which two children are possessed and forced to have sex until the female becomes pregnant. Not very descriptive, but possibly disturbing to some readers.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

A Slice of Heaven by Sherryl Woods

Title: A Slice of Heaven
Author: Sherryl Woods
Series: Sweet Magnolias #2
Rating: ★★★★★
Genre: Chick lit
Description: (from Goodreads) Dana Sue might run the best little restaurant in Serenity, but when you're feeding a small town of neighbors, busybodies and best friends, things can get a bit hot in the kitchen. Never mind that she's putting on too many pounds (an occupational hazard for a chef)—she's worried about her too-skinny teenage daughter, Annie, who has been slowly starving herself since the loud, suitcase-tossing, name-calling fit on her front lawn that left Dana Sue minus one cheating husband.

But sometimes life picks strange ways to mend fences. When Annie lands in the hospital, Dana Sue reaches out to the man she loves to hate: Ron, the husband who took her heart when she tossed him out. Ron is still Annie's white knight, even if he's decidedly more tarnished in Dana Sue's eyes. But he still looks good enough to eat, and maybe, just maybe, to forgive. Once, Ron made the mistake of letting go without a proper fight. But now Dana Sue is about to get another taste of sweet devotion from a man tired of feeling like a fool, hungry for that slice of heaven he found with her.

I don't often read chick lit, but a dare over at Goodreads made this series sound so interesting I had to give it a go. Originally conceived as three books, each focusing on one of a trio of friends this book follows on from Stealing Home (Maddie's book), and leads into Feels Like Family (Helen's book). Having loved the first book in the series, I'd actually put off reading this one as I'd already formed opinions about Dana Sue's cheating ex. But Annie's anorexia had been mentioned previously too, and it was this storyline that convinced me to pick up this book.

Anorexia isn't something I know anything about beyond the absolute basics, but the way the storyline was handled felt very realistic to me. The author obviously did her research here, and it shows. Annie is basically a second lead character in the book, as her recovery and friendship with Maddie's son Ty attracts a lot of page time.

I wasn't sure how I'd handle Ronnie's attempt to re-enter the lives of his ex-wife and daughter, but I ended up having a lot of respect for him. Rather than making him cliched or perfect, the author made his character very realistic (kind of a warts-and-all portrayal), and this makes him far more interesting to read.

I also liked how other background characters were developed so the book wasn't purely focused on Dana Sue, Maddie, Helen and their families.

All in all, this is a great read that left me wanting more :)

Content Description

Sex and nudity - One pretty tame sex scene, but there are quite frequent references to sex and an extramarital affair.

Violence and gore - None

Alcohol and drugs - None, although a character is hospitalised for anorexia-related heart failure and is obviously treated for this.

Profanity - None

Frightening/intense scenes - Nothing really although a character's battle with anorexia may be upsetting to some, especially as the psychology of the illness is described in parts.

~ Claire

Fallen by Lauren Kate

Title: Fallen
Author: Lauren Kate
Series: Fallen Novels #1
Rating: ★★★★★
Genre: YA/Teen paranormal romance
Description: (from Goodreads) Seventeen-Year-Old Luce is a new student at Sword & Cross, an unwelcoming boarding/reform school in Savannah, Georgia. Luce’s boyfriend died under suspicious circumstances, and now she carries the guilt over his death with her as she navigates the unfriendly halls at Sword & Cross, where every student seems to have an unpleasant—even evil—history.

It’s only when she sees Daniel, a gorgeous fellow student, that Luce feels there’s a reason to be here—though she doesn’t know what it is. And Daniel’s frosty cold demeanor toward her? It’s really a protective device that he’s used again . . . and again. For Daniel is a fallen angel, doomed to fall in love with the same girl every 17 years . . . and watch her die. And Luce is a fellow immortal, cursed to be reincarnated again and again as a mortal girl who has no idea of who she really is.

I picked up this book not really knowing what to expect. As a YA novel, I'm out of the target range and I'd heard pretty mixed things about it. However, the cover (and an awesome offer at my local bookstore) encouraged me to take a chance and I am so incredibly glad I did! I got sucked straight into the book and really enjoyed reading about Luce's experiences at Sword & Cross. The book is written with a really gothic feel, which the desolate surroundings only add to.

I'd heard that people felt the book takes too long to get started, but I found the gradual nature of the story to be great at drawing out tension. As I read little questions kept popping up in my mind, and as soon as the author started to answer these I was finding more questions. Luckily the book answers all the questions it raises, and yet somehow still manages a cliffhanger ending. At the end of the day, the blurb and tagline 'some angels are destined to fall' makes it clear exactly who and what Daniel is from the start, but I enjoyed watching Luce try to figure it out.

I really liked Luce and the author's done a great job of creating a variety of characters to fill the school with. These aren't all the kind of characters you would expect in a reform school either, and each is pretty distinct. I must admit it took me a while to warm up to Daniel. He was incredibly cold to Luce, at the same time as Cam (another student) was being really nice. I did worry the book would then descend into some kind of cheesy love-triangle, but again the author managed to twist the storyline to keep the reader interested.

All in all, Fallen was a great read and I'm really looking forward to Torment, the next book in the series, due out this autumn.

Content Description

Sex and nudity - Nothing in the book progresses past kissing, although there is very mild suggestion that more is going on with some of the couples.

Violence and gore - There is a scene where a character is bullied by another student, culminating in a plate of meatloaf being smashed into their head. There are two fist-fights, and a battle scene at the end of the book between two groups of characters. One character is wounded (although the wound itself isn't discussed in great detail). One character murders a character and attempts to murder another.

Alcohol and drugs - One party scene with teens drinking alcohol, one bar visit by two teenage characters and a couple of references to/by a character who can smuggle alcohol (and it is implied drugs as well) into the school.

Profanity - None

Frightening/intense scenes - The lead character is followed around by shadows only she can see which is disconcerting at best and disturbing at worst. The final battle scene and it's lead-up are quite intense. The lead character ends up in a situation which is both intense and dangerous.

~ Claire

Monday, 10 May 2010

Hi there

I thought I'd make my first post into an explanation behind how this blog came to be. I read a lot, to the point where I'm rarely without a book. I'll read anything - young adult, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, cozy mysteries, chick lit, classics - you name it, I'll probably read it. I'd been toying with the idea of having a blog for a while, but it was a discussion on that spurred me on to create one. I couldn't see a gap in the huge selection of awesome book blogs out there, until a discussion on the idea of rating books got started on GoodReads.

Don't get me wrong - I don't think books should be rated, but I do think there should be a way of checking books for certain topics without having to read it. The discussion on GoodReads featured a lot of comments about the amount of recently published Young Adult books that have sex or swearing in. In the UK some of these books are marked as not suitable for younger readers, but it seems that is pretty unique in the world book market.

This debate got me thinking - why do book reviews rarely mention the content of a book, unless it has offended the reviewer? How come movies come with parents guides (on the IMDB), but books don't? This isn't just an age thing - there are some things I hate reading about as an adult(graphic violence, for example). So I decided to start my own blog. Like other book-focused blogs, I'll post reviews and random book-related musings, but I'll also commenting on the content of the books I read.

I'll be borrowing the categories from the IMDB for now as I'm not sure how well I'll be able to apply them to books, but they are: sex and nudity, violence and gore, profanity, alcohol and drugs, and frightening/intense scenes. I'm not going to be posting spoilers, just heads up for people who might find the content not to their tastes. I also won't be making any judgements about what should and shouldn't be allowed in books - I'll just be stating the facts for the content. I am keeping the right to comment in my review on what I personally did or didn't like in a book, and my ratings (in terms of marks out of 10) will be based purely on my opinions.

So, I hope you find the blog interesting and/or useful. I'm now off to read!