Archive for February, 2013

Underworld

Meg Cabot

underworldLast year, Pierce died – just for a moment. And when she was in the space between life and death, she met John: a devilishly handsome boy who ushers souls from one world to the next. Pierce tried to fight her attraction to John but has now accepted her fate and gone to live with him in the dark realm between heaven and hell. She may finally be safe from the Furies – the angry, vengeful souls of the dead – but is she safe from John? When she discovers that she’s a prisoner and her family are in danger she must escape even if it means risking everything, even her life . . .

I have been waiting for this since having the ARC of Abandon and I haven’t been disappointed.

Underworld begins right where Abandon left off. Pierce wakes up in the Underworld with John. She has to try and process everything she has just found out; her grandmother is a Fury and has just tried to kill her, she has tried to kill her before (!), the Furies are after her as a way to hurt John and they won’t stop until they get what they want. Phew, on top of all this she is now in the Underworld for safety and because of all the above can’t really go home. Being with John might be a dream come true, but life in the Underworld? Pierce doesn’t feel ready to let go of her Mum and her cousin Alex just yet.

So with all that in the background Pierce begins to explore her knew home and her relationship with John as she realises there is a lot about him she doesn’t know, and she wants to find out. She discovers he has some ‘undead’ friends living in the Underworld with him and her. Curiosity continues to grow, not just about John as the head of the entrance to the Underworld, but about his life, his family, the ship he sailed and most of all his death and how he came to be undead. Being the second book in a trilogy not all the answers are revealed, but over the course of the story we do get to know more about the enigmatic John.

Pierce is also worried about her cousin, Alex, who she sees on her phone trapped in a coffin. Her phone shouldn’t work in this other realm so Pierce is desperate to make sure he is alright. John is worried about taking her back, not only because of the danger from the Furies but because now Pierce lives in the Underworld she might find visiting her family a bit difficult. Pierce’s insistence that they go leads to all sorts of drama and it reveals more about the history of Pierce’s own family and the links it might have with John’s history.

In addition to all this is the development of John and Pierce’s relationship. Pierce is unsure if she wants to be stuck in the Underworld, although she is sure she wants to be with John. The connections to Hades and Persephone come to the fore as Pierce grapples with whether or not she will be able to leave the Underworld for good at all. We finally discover the significance of those pomegranate seeds!

Verdict: There is loads going on in the novel and I was hooked. There is plenty more action I haven’t covered. Its a real page turner and I still want to know more and see how it all works out. Hurry up book 3!

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Macmillan children’s Books
Publication Date: September 2012
Format: eBook
Pages: 314/936KB
Genre: Paranormal romance
Age: YA
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None
Posted on:

Superworm

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

superworm 2Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler, the brilliant team behind The Gruffalo, have created a new exuberant character who is sure to delight young readers – and their parents – in this eagerly anticipated hardback, Superworm. The funny and fantastically-illustrated story is full of bouncy rhyming verses and has a fun chorus that is sure to have preschoolers joining in as they follow Superworm’s adventures as he faces up to the wicked Wizard Lizard and his sinister servant Crow. When Superworm is kidnapped by them, it is up to his animal friends to save him. The quirky illustrations are full of charming details and the unlikely hero of the tale has immense appeal for children aged 3 and over.

I must confess that I only bought ‘Superworm’ as it was on offer and because one of children’s literature’s most famous duos, Julia Donaldson and Axel Schleffer were behind the helm. It couldn’t be that much of a dud surely?!

To my relief, this book has proved to be an absolute hit with my 5yr old daughter and 2yr old son. Whilst thinking about doing this review, I was trying to work out what makes this book so loved. Asking the children gets the usual, not very descriptive, ‘It’s good’ so no real hope there.

I can only assume that it’s the combination of having a ‘superhero’ and that the characters are bugs and other small common creatures that the children can easily identify with. Each page is filled with action, the pace is fast, Superworm is afterall busy being a superhero and all that.

Also, Superworm is a hero that’s cool to younger children. Who cares about x ray vision, seeing the future, super strength etc when Superworm can make himself into a slide, skipping rope, train, lasso and so on? Throw in a dastardly lizard and his crow servant who want to use Superworm for their own nefarious purposes and you have the formula for a fantastic book in your hands.

The usual Donaldson and Schleffer footprints are here with the witty, easy to read poem that the kids quickly start to memorise and chant aloud with you in glee. Coupled with Schaeffler’s trademark quirky, detailed illustrations that adds life and character to the ‘creepy crawlies’ and the world which they inhabit, this is an enjoyable book to listen to and look at.

Verdict: This book may appear to have a limited target audience but would actually be appreciated by most children. It’s fast paced, full of action and yet easily relatable, catching most children’s interest. I’m sure that when the weather gets warmer we’ll be outside looking for our own ‘Superworm’ and friends!

Reviewed by Karen

Publisher: Alison Green Books
Publication Date: September 2012
Format: Hardback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture book
Age: Picture book
Reviewer: Karen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British book
Posted on:

Lucifer Blog Tour: To Publish Is To Bleed

Yesterday we got to know awesome debut author Annabell Cadiz ( read the interview here). Today we ask that you sit back and relax with a cup of tea while Annabell shares the wisdom she gained during her journey to self publication.

luciferHave you ever wondered what could be hiding in the shadows?
Well, for eighteen-year-old Zahara Faraday, she doesn’t have to wonder. You see she comes from a lineage of Light Witches, those who have chosen to help protect and serve between the supernatural world and the human world. The only problem is Zahara, like her father Solomon, is as human as a human being can be whereas her mother, Mia, and her Aunt Catalina, were born as Light Witches. As a family they hunt down rogue supernaturals—creatures who harm humans or who have committed an act against their kingdom.
Zahara’s hunting skills are usually kept dormant since her parents would prefer she live life as a normal human girl without knowledge of the supernatural world. She plans on doing just that—except when she finds a couple being attacked by fairies, she has no choice but to step in. Before she can return to pretending to be blissfully ignorant, Zahara encounters a problem she isn’t the least equip to handle: Bryan Hamilton, the good looking new co-worker she has to help train. In a heartbeat, her best friend, Becca King, has set her up on a double date with herself and her new crush, Rekesh Saint-Louis, who happens to be the most powerful leader of the biggest Imago Coven in South Florida –supernatural creatures with the ability to control water . . . and suck out human souls.
Zahara has no time to focus on how she’s going to explain her double date with her best friend and the enemy they have a tentative truce with to her parents because soon one of the members of Mia and Catalina’s coven is found murdered with a strange tattoo of a snake with wings carved into his arm.
Zahara is then thrown into a whirlwind battle with an angel determined to have revenge against God, an Imago coven she doesn’t think they should trust, and slew of dream-eating fairies and powerful Nephilims, hybrid children of angels and humans, more than happy to rip her to shreds.
Normal just got a deadlier definition.

To Publish is To Bleed!
Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed,” while that is true for writing, the same could be said for publishing. Or well, it FEELS like sitting down and bleeding all your sanity out!
My journey to self-publishing was, thankfully, less like bleeding out my sanity and more like beating my head against a wall. I knew the basics about self-publishing but I had never ACTUALLY applied them since I had yet to publish a book, so the journey was filled with both HIALRIOUS and stupid mistakes, and was a DEFINITE learning experience.

My journey to publishing began when I was sixteen years old. I decided to write a book and in my naive mind, I thought that was all it would take. Write a book. Find someone who likes it enough to publish. Done.

Yeah, not so much.

Not only did I discover I needed an editor ASAP but I needed an entirely different book. I didn’t really focus on writing till years later when the FALLEN ANGELS SERIES kicked in, then SONS OF OLD TRILGY was born.
Through those years I learned how to be a better writer and how to create an ACTUAL plot with DEPTH, and I learned how to understand the ins and outs of publishing.

So here are some tips to up and coming authors to save you from making the same ridiculous (and comical) mistakes.
Enjoy!

Tips to Self-Publishing

Editor Is Your Best Friend (Even When He/She Sounds Like the Enemy): Every great author needs a support team and one of the main players on your team is your editor. Your editor is a third set of EXPERIENCED eyes and will not only become your confidant, but a trusted friend. Do the research. Make sure the person you choose to work with has done work either as a freelance editor or established editor in the past. Ask for references, history, and pricing. Find someone you vibe with well. You can use sites like The Association of Authors’ Representative, Preditors & Editors, and Writer Beware to help you.

The Curse of the Ugly Cover: Now, we all know the first element that will attract a reader to your book is the cover. As much as we’d love the old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover” to be true, in the publication world, it just doesn’t work, and frankly, an ugly cover can be an extreme turn off. Once that book is published, you’re going to have to live with that cover, so make sure it’s one you REALLY love. AND make sure to look over every detail of the cover before officially announcing it to the world. When my cover was officially done and I did a Cover Reveal Tour, none of the reviewers, my best friends, myself or even my cover designer, Kim (from Hot Damn Designs) realized that the word TRILOGY was spelled TRIOLOGY! Thankfully, it was an easy mistake to fix and it was caught before the book was published *Whew* Some designers you may want to check out Hot Damn Designs, Dara England and Carol Green, WordSuger Designs, and Graphic Fantastic.

Converting From Hell: Formatting a book is HARD work, at least for those of us who do not speak computer beyond the basics. I was blessed that my best friend’s husband knows how to format Word Doc into the various ebook formats. But I know it won’t be so easy for everyone, so I suggest learning exactly what formats you want to convert your book into and what formats work for which site (i.e. Epub for Barnes and Noble, Epub for Amazon). Also, DO NOT PUBLISH YOUR WORD DOC DIRECTLY! Amazon and BN will tell you that you can just upload your book as Word Doc and they’ll convert it for you, which they will, BUT the conversion won’t come out so nice looking. Spaces will be off. Formatting will look weird. Paragraphs may not be indented probably. You don’t want to wind up with crappy formatted conversion because readers will get annoyed and will only be able to focus on the formatting instead of the story. Some great sites that can help you with conversion: Kinde Expert and Write Into Print.

Publish Here, Publish There, Publish Everywhere!: In case you were like me and didn’t know where the hex on Amazon and Barnes and Noble you’re supposed to go in order to publish your book, let me make it easier for you 😉

Amazon: No, you do not just go on your regular Amazon account to publish your book. Travel over to Kindle Direct Publishing. The steps will be explained for you and they are really simple. (Also, make sure in the section where it says “Contributors” that you put in YOUR NAME then click on the scroll bar and select AUTHOR or when you submit your book for publication on Amazon, it won’t go live. Yeah, I made that mistake. TWICE. *slaps forehead*) Amazon takes up to 12 hrs to publish your book in English and 48 hrs to publish your book in various other languages, so make sure to submit your book the day before your desired publication date! A great video that helps to explain Kindle Direct Publishing well is How to Upload Your Book on Amazon’s DTP (Kindle Marketplace). Also, once you finish publishing your book, head on over to Author Central and set up an author page for yourself 😉

Barnes and Noble: Again, you don’t head to your regular Barnes and Noble page that you use to buy books. Head on over to Pub It where the steps are explained to you the same way they are on Amazon. And again, remember in the Contributor section to do the same as with Amazon!! Barnes and Noble will give you a phone number you’ll need to call so they can check that your name and social security number are correct before they can send your book to be published live on their site. Barnes and Noble can take between 24 to 72 hrs to publish your book live so make sure to submit your book earlier than your desired publication date.
Other sites you may want to publish on: Smashwords (If you use Smashwords though, they will convert your book for you into various ebook versions). Kobo (in order to publish with them you will need to first attain an ISBN number).

Cover Tour, Launch Tour, Blog Tour? Speak English, Will You?!: There are a variety of ways an author can promote his or her book both before publication and after. It’s always great to set up interest for your book as early as possible and here are some ways you can do that.

Cover Reveal Tour: Before your book comes out, you can start getting word out there by setting up a virtual tour, otherwise known as a blog tour, that will reveal the cover of your book. The cover reveal will include not only the image of the cover, but also the synopsis of the book, mini bio about the author and links as to where the author can be located. It’s a fun and simple way to get people interested in your up and coming book. You will have to research out reviewers and request if they would like to sign up to participate in your cover reveal tour. This tour can go from one to two weeks long.

Launch Day Tour: This would be a blog tour that takes place on the day of publication for your book. You will have to set this up a few weeks in advance so every reviewer that chooses to participate can have all the info on time and so you can get a good amount of participating reviewers. Every post would include the cover of your book, the synopsis, author bio and links, and you may also want to include an excerpt (can be a scene from your book or half a chapter or a full on chapter) from your book. Or character profiles or a character interview. Something fun to go along with the promo of your book and give people an inside glimpse into what your book is either about or the characters.

Launch Tour: This would be like the Launch Day Tour but instead of just one day, this would last from one week to two weeks long.

Blog Tour: A blog tour is a lot more work and a lot of fun. It’s like setting up a book tour in the outside world except instead of stopping by bookstores for signings, you stop by reviewers blogs. This tour would include book reviews, interviews, guest posts and giveaways. This tour can last from two weeks to a month, so you will to set this tour up at least a month before the time period you want it to run. Usually between ten to twenty-five reviewers participate in the tour and they get to decide how they participate (i.e. review your book or conduct an interview with you or a character interview with a character from your book or give you a topic to write a post about to be featured on the reviewer’s site) With every type of post the cover image, the synopsis, the author bio and links will also be included.

Who the Author Are You??: A reader will become interested in not just your book but the author who created that book. You’re taken more seriously the better you establish yourself for your readership. Create a website or a blog or both (Weebly and WordPress are both FREE sites that allow you to set up a website for yourself). Write about your books, your writing journey, tips you may have, your everyday life. Let readers get to know you a bit so they can feel a connection with you. Create an account on a social media site like Twitter or Facebook. Twitter is a great place to network with fellow authors, editors, and publishers. Facebook lets you create an author page. Pinterest is a fun site to post images of stuff that can represent you and your book. Set up a Goodreads account. Goodreads is one of the biggest sites for readers and reviewers. It’s a great place to get know your readership and connect with them. They also have an Author’s Program you can sign up for. Having an online presence is a NECESSITY when you are publishing period, but even more so, when you’re self-publishing in your own work.

I hope these tips help you in along your publishing journey! =) You can also stop by TeamNerd Reviews to request having a blog tour set up for you *wink*

AnnabelleAnnabell Cadiz was born in the sweltering heat of South Florida. She was raised surrounded by Puerto Rican chefs and band of siblings that weren’t all related to her. A self-proclaimed nerd and book-a-holic (her room does hold much evidence to prove her claims are justifiable), she created TeamNerd Reviews to showcase her EXTREME love for novels where, along with her best friend, Bridget Strahin, she hosts book reviews, interviews, giveaways, Indie Shoutouts and much more. She also blog tour services for authors. She also had the pleasure of being published in three separate issue of Suspense Magazine. She also adores Cinnamon Teddy Grahams, has an addiction to Minute Maid Orange juice, and is a proud Jesus Freak. Lucifer is Annabell’s debut novel and the first book in the Sons of Old Trilogy.

You can find out more about Annabell and her work by visiting her website, Goodreads author page, Pinterest account, Facebook page,and her fabulous book blog. Alternatively, you can converse with her on twitter.

Lucifer, the first book in Annabell’s Son’s Of Old Trilogy, is available to buy now from Barnes and Noble, amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.

lucifer swag packENTER FOR A CHANCE TO WIN THE FABTASTIC SWAG PACK!
In honor of the two main female leads in LUCIFER, Zahara and Becca, Annabell created a fun swag pack for ONE very lucky winner!
Win a specially made makeup kit by E.L.F along with one DVD copy of the movie Sixteen Candles, a fuschia metallic manicure set, a Girl Power Superwoman wristband, a LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD silver necklace, a silver bracelet with handcuff & key charms, Honey Sweetheart lotion (that smells INCREDIBLE!), two toned lip bloom (that is SUPER cute!), and gray colored cheetah printed socks that are SOOOO adorables and an ecopy of LUCIFER!
ANNNND if that wasn’t enough,FIVE other lucky winners will win a FREE ecopy of LUCIFER!
TWICE a week on MONDAYS & FRIDAYS a new clue from LUCIFER will be posted up. Enter the new clue inside the Rafflecopter every time a new one is posted and get more chances to win!
Stop by the BLOG TOUR page(here) to enter!

Posted on:

Lucifer Blog Tour: Interview With Annabelle Cadiz

We are very excited to be hosting not one, but two spots on Annabell Cadiz’s blog tour for her debut novel Lucifer (book one in the Sons Of Old trilogy). Today is devoted to getting to know a little more about Annabell and her recently released paranormal novel.

AnnabelleAnnabell Cadiz was born in the sweltering heat of South Florida. She was raised surrounded by Puerto Rican chefs and band of siblings that weren’t all related to her. A self-proclaimed nerd and book-a-holic (her room does hold much evidence to prove her claims are justifiable), she created TeamNerd Reviews to showcase her EXTREME love for novels where, along with her best friend, Bridget Strahin, she hosts book reviews, interviews, giveaways, Indie Shoutouts and much more. She also blog tour services for authors. She also had the pleasure of being published in three separate issue of Suspense Magazine. She also adores Cinnamon Teddy Grahams, has an addiction to Minute Maid Orange juice, and is a proud Jesus Freak. Lucifer is Annabell’s debut novel and the first book in the Sons of Old Trilogy.
You can find out more about Annabell and her work by visiting her website, Goodreads author page, Pinterest account, Facebook page,and her fabulous book blog. Alternatively, you can converse with her on twitter.

What do you do when you are not writing?
When I’m not writing, you’ll find me hanging out with my crazy Puerto Rican family or hanging out with my girlfriends. Having movie night with the girls or having creative chats where we discuss creative projects we’re working on or thinking about doing. Or you’ll find me yelling from the stands at my nephew’s soccer practices and games. Or stalking the shelves at the library and piling my arms full of books. I also love bike riding.

What inspired you to become a writer?
I started writing when I was sixteen. I had decided if Stephen King could write a book so could I. The arrogance (and ignorance) of youth *hehe* The job to writing a book and publication I knew absolutely nothing about so that was a fun and tough learning experience. I was inspired to become a writer because I adore storytelling. I like how a story can haunt you or tempt or teach you. There’s a power and beauty to storytelling and I love it!

What was your inspiration for LUCIFER?
LUCIFER was inspired through the series that follows the SONS OF OLD TRILOGY, the FALLEN ANGELS SERIES. I had never really thought about writing a prequel trilogy or series of any kind, but the idea came to me when I got stuck trying to figure out what direction I wanted to move in with the FALLEN ANGELS SERIES. I started wondering about how Lucifer could come to have a child with a human woman. How would he convince a woman to fall in love with him? Would he care if she really loved him or would he just kidnapped some random girl and force her to have his child? Would he somehow fall in love with the human girl? Could loving that girl change him? I had wanted to explore Lucifer’s path to creating war with Heaven that happens in the FALLEN ANGELS SERIES thus the SONS OF OLD TRILOGY was born.

Tell us about your book:
LUCIFER follows Zahara Faraday and her family. Where Zahara and her father, Solomon, are all human, her mother, Mia, and her aunt, Catalina, are Light Witches. They hunt down rogue supernaturals—supernatural creatures who are up to no good (i.e. stealing human memories, drinking human blood, possessing humans) and return them to the Supernatural Kingdom they belong to. Everything is going as normal (well, as normal as normal can get for a family half made up of Light Witches with powers who hunt down dangerous supernaturals), when Zahara and her family find themselves under attack by an unknown enemy determined to use them in his quest for revenge against Heaven. There are memory-stealing fairies, blood drinking rogue Imagoes (supernatural creatures who can steal a human’s soul and drink human blood), powerful fallen angels and Nephilim (hybrid children of angels and humans), and battles to survive. There are tons of hawt guys and kick-butt beautiful ladies. There are flirt fighting romances, kidnapping, and murder. All juicy things to check out if you’re a fan of the urban fantasy, supernatural, and paranormal genres 😉

Are any elements of your book based on real life experiences/people?
There are few elements to LUCIFER that are inspired from real life.

The family dynamic between Zahara and her parents as well as Becca and her parents. Zahara and Becca are really close to their parents and their parents are extremely overprotective of them. They really respect their parents and are very open with them. I have the same type of relationship with my parents and my family. I grew up in a HUGE family and everyone is really close and involved in each other’s business. There really isn’t much privacy =P I’m really close to both my mom and dad. My parents are my best friend and I have a really close relationship with my older brother. My family does everything together. We don’t really like going anywhere alone. It’s not that we never do, it’s just we prefer having someone tag along. When you grow up in a family as big as mine, its normal to always have someone around.

I also grew up in a Christian family. Zahara and Becca do as well. I share the same values as they do. You don’t go out with a guy without first building a friendship with him and introducing him to your parents. He has to ask for their permission. It’s a matter of respect for both the girl and the parents. Its old school thinking but it was the way I was raised.

Zahara’s character was inspired by both myself and my mother and grandmother. The strength she possesses, how stubborn and strong-willed she is, how once she makes her judgement on something it’s really difficult to change her mind—I’m just like that *smiles sheepishly* Becca’s character was inspired by my two best friends Bridget and Eve. Becca is bubbly and sarcastic and optimistic. My two best buds are very much like that in many ways.

What books have inspired you?
There are many books that I have loved that have inspired me as a writer! Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, A Separate Peace by John Knowles, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, The House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe, The Stand by Stephen King. All really great reads =)

What was the last book you recommended to a friend?
The last book I recommended was actually to my niece. I bought her a copy of Beautiful Creatures and she fell in love with it 😉

What/Who inspired you as a reader?
My mom is my biggest inspiration as a reader. She taught me how to read really young and loves reading herself. She has a collection of books all her own and made sure I grew up with a love for stories.

Just For Fun!

Paper, Audio or eBook?
I haven’t really listened to many audio books. I do read ebooks and enjoy them but I will always prefer hardcover copies of books. There’s just a special type of magic with a book made out of paper and ink. It’s like hugging an old friend you’ve missed *hehe*

If LUCIFER was made in to a film which actor(s), past or present, do you envision in the lead role(s)

Zahara Faraday (Kick-Butt Heroine)—I was thinking actress Saoirse Ronan would be a good fit. If you saw her in the movie Hana, you would understand why 😉 She was awesome in that movie and in The Lovely Bones.

Becca King (Best Friend & Awesome Sidekick) –Originally I had thought Zoe Kravtitz would make a good fit for Becca but I was iffy about it. My best friend Eve told me about Logan Browning and she fits Becca much better.

Bryan Hamilton (Hawt Male Lead) –I love Freddie Storma! And not because he’s easy on the eyes *wink* He’s an actual good actor and has such a sweet and humble demeanour (at least from what I can tell by interviews =P)

Rekesh Saint-Louis (Hawt Leader of a Powerful Imago Coven)—Bryton James has a really good Rekesh vibe and I like his acting. He seems really laid back and charming.

If your book had a soundtrack which artists would feature on it?
ABSOULTELY must have Family Force 5! LOOOVE THEM!! The Civil Wars, Paper Tongues, Flyleaf, Matchbox 20.

Slippers or barefoot?
Slippers! I HATE walking around barefoot. I don’t like my feet being dirty. It just bothers me like crazy!

Email or postcard?
I LOVE handwritten stuff. Notes, letters, post-it notes. There’s something very beautiful and loving about giving or receiving a handwritten letter or note. There’s a romanticism aspect to it and an intimacy of love you can’t really get through an email. (Can you tell I’m a romantic? lol)

luciferWell, for eighteen-year-old Zahara Faraday, she doesn’t have to wonder. You see she comes from a lineage of Light Witches, those who have chosen to help protect and serve between the supernatural world and the human world. The only problem is Zahara, like her father Solomon, is as human as a human being can be whereas her mother, Mia, and her Aunt Catalina, were born as Light Witches. As a family they hunt down rogue supernaturals—creatures who harm humans or who have committed an act against their kingdom.
Zahara’s hunting skills are usually kept dormant since her parents would prefer she live life as a normal human girl without knowledge of the supernatural world. She plans on doing just that—except when she finds a couple being attacked by fairies, she has no choice but to step in. Before she can return to pretending to be blissfully ignorant, Zahara encounters a problem she isn’t the least equip to handle: Bryan Hamilton, the good looking new co-worker she has to help train. In a heartbeat, her best friend, Becca King, has set her up on a double date with herself and her new crush, Rekesh Saint-Louis, who happens to be the most powerful leader of the biggest Imago Coven in South Florida –supernatural creatures with the ability to control water . . . and suck out human souls.
Zahara has no time to focus on how she’s going to explain her double date with her best friend and the enemy they have a tentative truce with to her parents because soon one of the members of Mia and Catalina’s coven is found murdered with a strange tattoo of a snake with wings carved into his arm.
Zahara is then thrown into a whirlwind battle with an angel determined to have revenge against God, an Imago coven she doesn’t think they should trust, and slew of dream-eating fairies and powerful Nephilims, hybrid children of angels and humans, more than happy to rip her to shreds.
Normal just got a deadlier definition.

Lucifer, the first book in Annabell’s Son’s Of Old Trilogy, is available to buy now from Barnes and Noble, amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.

lucifer swag packENTER FOR A CHANCE TO WIN THE FABTASTIC SWAG PACK!
In honor of the two main female leads in LUCIFER, Zahara and Becca, Annabell created a fun swag pack for ONE very lucky winner!
Win a specially made makeup kit by E.L.F along with one DVD copy of the movie Sixteen Candles, a fuschia metallic manicure set, a Girl Power Superwoman wristband, a LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD silver necklace, a silver bracelet with handcuff & key charms, Honey Sweetheart lotion (that smells INCREDIBLE!), two toned lip bloom (that is SUPER cute!), and gray colored cheetah printed socks that are SOOOO adorables and an ecopy of LUCIFER!
ANNNND if that wasn’t enough,FIVE other lucky winners will win a FREE ecopy of LUCIFER!
TWICE a week on MONDAYS & FRIDAYS a new clue from LUCIFER will be posted up. Enter the new clue inside the Rafflecopter every time a new one is posted and get more chances to win!
Stop by the BLOG TOUR page(here) to enter!

Don’t forget to stop by tomorrow as Annabell shares the benefit of her experience of self publication.

Posted on:

The Baby Game

James A Thomas and Vidya Samson

the baby gameSchoolteacher Samantha Morgan wants nothing more than to go to India and pick up the baby that’s being carried by a surrogate-the baby belonging to her and her beloved late husband.
But a mysterious woman contacts her and brings up a long forgotten
event: her seduction by an older man at age fifteen. Samantha tries
to put that back in the past, but a friend and fellow victim of the seducer delivers some startling news: that older man is now the Republican candidate for president and is about to win the election.
A phone call urges her to come forward, tell all, and destroy his chances. She wants no part of the notoriety that would bring. Then her friend’s home is blown up, and it’s obvious that another, more sinister group wants her silent forever. She and her friend flee to India to get her baby, and there the real troubles begin.

When Samantha Morgan has her baby shower she is a little unique – she isn’t pregnant, but her baby is due to arrive in the next month and she is about to go on maternity leave! Sam has hired a surrogate in India to carry her and her late husband’s child as Sam is unable to have children after contracting chlamydia aged 15 from an older man who seduced her. But as the man who seduced her is now running for President, and in addition there is a mix-up at the fertility clinic, all is not going to go smoothly for Sam Morgan.

Both the Republican and Democrat campaigns get their hands on the devastating information about the Presidential candidate and behind many closed doors they begin to plot what they are going to do about it. The Presidents team start bumping off the girls who he got entangled with whilst the other side is desperate to get the information out there and ruin his chances of Presidency. Sam is a little slow to catch onto what is happening but her friend Lisa who was also a victim is lucky not to have been killed and is a bit more savvy than Sam. Together they head for India hoping to pick up the baby and escape the mess at home, but as you would expect the consequences of this mess are not going away.

Whilst in India further complications arise as they meet Matthew, a fellow parent to be (via surrogate) with his own complex back story. When the clinic discovers there has been a mix up with the sperm samples they hesitate to tell the two different expectant parents, but these two are bound together in more than one misfortune. Their surrogate babies mothers are twins and are kidnapped by those who want Sam to spill the beans on the future President. As the expectant surrogate mothers are identical twins they take both of them! Sam and Lisa hire a Private Detective, Mr Ramasubbier, to help them find the twins (the babies are due quite literally any minute), and they chase across India, pursued by hitmen, to find them.

As you can tell from this resume, a lot happens in this story, there are three interwoven plots coming together. It has pace and humour as well as touching on Indian cultural differences and idiosyncrasies. I really enjoyed the depiction of India and how Mr Ramasubbier fitted into the story. Sam was sometimes a little too naïve and I felt that Lisa recovered from the death of her husband (at the beginning of the tale) remarkably, even given the circumstances in which he was found (you’ll have to read it!). It is, sadly, very believable that all this could be going on hidden away in the political campaigns.

However I did feel that the title is a little misleading, this book is about the politics and not so much the babies (although they are vital to the story) but it would be easy not to read this because you thought it was going to be about surrogacy when it’s really about politics.

Verdict: This is a story with lots going on, even with everything I have written there is plenty more! So although this is not one of my favourite books ever I did like it and I enjoyed reading something a bit different.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Self published
Publication Date:
Format: eBook
Pages: 260/1032KB
Genre: Political thriller
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Received from author
Challenge: None
Posted on:

Hidden Among Us

Katy Moran

hidden among usWhen Lissy meets a mysterious and strangely beautiful boy on her way to Hopesay Edge, she is deeply unsettled by their encounter.
She discovers that they boy, Larkspur, is a member of the Hidden, an ancient group of elven people, whose secrets lie buried at Hopesay Reach. Before long, Lissy and her brother Rafe find themselves caught by a powerful magic and fighting to escape a bargain that can never be broken.

Cloistered and wrapped in cotton wool by Miriam, her over protective mother, Lissy embarks on her first act of rebellion. Rather than wait for her mother to collect her she decides to take the train alone to Hopesay Reach, the home of her eccentric uncle and the place she was born.

Lissy experiences warm feelings of triumph at the success of her step towards independence, until she is forced to get off at an unfamiliar station. Dark and deserted in the middle of nowhere, the station boasts just one other patron; a stunningly beautiful, boy. A stranger, who sparks feelings of recognition within her and disappears moments after whispering her name.

The next time she meets the gorgeous but mysterious Larkspur she feels compelled to take his hand, following him into the nearby woods to a gathering of beautiful revelers. He takes hold of her and they begin to dance…

I might have misled you into thinking that Hidden Among Us is Lissy’s story. In fact Lissy shares the first person narration with three other characters. Her protective but emotionally distant older brother Rafe is attempting to unravel the secrets, which have confused and frustrated him his entire life. Joe begrudgingly gets caught up in the drama at Hopesay Reach by virtue of his fathers developing relationship with Miriam and his innate sense of honour.

Although a much smaller contribution, I really loved Miriam’s input in to the story. Simultaneously providing us with the background and history of her family’s interactions with the Hidden, while also keeping us ever aware of the current, time sensitive situation. It was refreshing to read a paranormal book where the parents were fully aware of the developing situation and not conveniently absent or lied to throughout.

If you are expecting a tale of glitter and of wishes bestowed by be-winged godmothers you will be horrified (but definitely not disappointed)to discover the true nature of the “good folk”… This immortal elfin race, might be stunningly beautiful, but their beauty is very much skin deep. These truth twisting, iron avoiding, bargain making, kidnappers of babies have their own agenda and are definitely advocates of the bigger picture.

While the book’s cover hints at the atmospheric story within, I was definitely not expecting fast paced action, evasive driving techniques, daring roof top escapes and the unwelcomed attentions of a sinister, underground organisation.

The Hidden have be described in the blurb as a group of Elven people. At first I couldn’t understand why, when all other clues point to it, they weren’t simply described as Fey or Faeries. Having read the book I now understand that to label the book as such (a paranormal book with faeries) could potentially put off a large number of readers who, if they gave themselves the opportunity to, would absolutely adore this action filled fantasy.

Verdict: The twists and turns of Hidden Among Us, indicates that author, Katy Moran may have spent a little time with the elven herself! I will definitely be picking up a copy of the sequel.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Walker
Publication Date: March 2013
Format: ARC
Pages: 304
Genre: Paranormal
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
Posted on:

Keith The Cat With The Magic Hat

Sue Hendra

keith the catMeet Keith.
Keith is a cat with a magic hat – or at least, that’s what the other cats think. But when Keith’s hat falls off one day, it seems that magic is still possible after all!

My wife bought this one for me as a joke Christmas present, as I share the protagonist’s name. The cover proudly proclaims that it’s “From the creator of Norman and Barry”, so Hendra clearly has a liking for traditional British names.

The book tells the story of Keith the cat, who one day has an ice cream cone dropped on his head. There’s no explanation as to where the ice cream comes from – perhaps it drops from space or pops in from an alternate universe. However, I have made a careful analysis of the artwork, and I believe that it is a three scoop vanilla, strawberry and chocolate cone with a flake and sprinkles.

Keith’s friends tease him about it, and to cover his embarrassment, he claims that the ice cream is in fact a magic hat (the flake conveniently fulfilling the role of a magic wand). He begins to perform tricks, all of which are simply coincidences, but his feline friends lap it up (pun intended).

Eventually, the cats are chased up a tree by a dog and they ask Keith to magic the dog away. Whilst thinking, the ice cream drops off Keith’s head and lands on the dog, who is then chased away by a swarm of very happy looking wasps. Keith is then pronounced the cats’ hero.

It’s only on a second reading that I noticed that the wasps gradually build up throughout the book – a clever bit of visual foreshadowing. In fact the art work is consistently excellent – bright colours and bold shapes with some nice characterisation on the faces.

The only niggle for me is the morality of the tale. On the one hand it shows a character who triumphs through his resourcefulness, but on the other it shows that lying can be a successful strategy. I’m not convinced it can just be called pretending or make-believe as the other cats seem to fully believe Keith’s assertion that the ice cream is a magic hat and he never says otherwise, even when they are in danger. Whilst lying arguably has real life benefits in some instances, I’m not sure this is the sort of lesson I want my three and four year olds to learn just yet.

Verdict: A bright colourful and fun story, with some curious morality.

Reviewed by Keith

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: July 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture book
Age: Picture book
Reviewer: Keith
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British book
Posted on:

Babies In Waiting

Rosie Fiore

babies in waitingMeet Louise, 38, Toni, 26 and Gemma, 18. They are all expecting babies in September. One of them conceived in a hurry because she was running out of time. One of them fell pregnant to keep a man and one got knocked up by mistake after a one-night-stand. But none of them realized what they would come up against as they face nine long months of pregnancy, and the reactions of friends, family and colleagues. Meeting through an online forum, they form an unlikely but powerful bond. When it seems that all they have is each other, their lives will be thrown into turmoil, as a blast from the past threatens to destroy everything. Babies in Waiting is a heart-warming novel about motherhood, friendship and finding love at the most surprising time in your life. It is also very funny, sexy and utterly compelling.

I picked this up as a bargain e-book in early 2012, but due to a tragic accident between a printer and a Kindle screen couldn’t begin it until after Christmas!

Being a first time mum that had made friends through antenatal classes, toddler groups and online, I was intrigued to read a book based around three different women thrown together through pregnancy, with a spot of romance, love triangles and friendship rifts thrown in for good measure.

So, ‘Babies in Waiting’ takes us through the lives of Louise, Toni and Gemma trimester by trimester rather than by chapters. Louise narrates her side in the first person who you instantly empathise with, even if you haven’t been plied with alcohol, bad lines and had a one stand with your married boss! Due to the less traditional circumstances around conception, after some soul searching and number crunching alongside the consideration of an abortion Louise decides to leave her successful job in her small but highly regarded Manchester based printing branch to live with her single gay and exceedingly broody brother, Simon, in London until she can set up home on her own.

Louise’s character is ultimately the centre of the story, she is confident, funny and feisty. She has the eyebrow raising back story of the work one night affair resulting in her pregnancy which she keeps hidden from all of her old Manchester colleagues, who are also her only friends. The father of her baby is also kept in the dark about his impending love child. Although this sounds horrendous, Fiores ensures we are on Louise’s side with all her tough decision making. The father, Brian, is basically a git! I can’t find a better word to describe the serial adulterer who avoids Louise’s calls after he failed to secure her as a mistress and has moved onto another female colleague instantly with his “I’m about leave my wife” line. Although we know it’s a slightly unwise decision we empathise with Louise’s no nonsense outlook that she’s entering motherhood as a Single mother and that’s how things will be, simple? Louise is faced with breaking the awkward news of her accidental pregnancy to her younger sister, Rachel, who has been trying for many years desperately for a child of her own. So in a new city, jobless and ‘knocked up’ Louise turns to a parenthood forum and befriends another expectant first time mum Toni.

Toni, a young newly-wed works in advertising where she meets the perfect man, James, her now husband of four years. Although they have always discussed that they will have children ‘someday’ this vague timescale suddenly is given a year deadline when Toni is diagnosed as having Primary Ovarian Insufficiency and her gynaecologist, nicknamed Dr Dad from his twinned appearance with her own, pretty much tells her ‘it’s now or never, if ever!’ Toni, who wears her emotions in her tear ducts, seeks out more information and joins an online forum which opens her eyes to a world of acronyms and abbreviations which translate into new terminology for talking about the most intimate part of your sex life. She is shocked to discover her and James are successful so quickly and also finds herself quite isolated as all of her friends are at different stages with their lives. She also struggles to talk to her handsome husband too, about the life changing experience they have so quickly been engulfed by.

Finally there is Gemma, a young A level student from a wealthy Surrey based family. She begins as your stereotypical surly teenager with a know-it-all attitude. Her father, David, is busy working and having affairs whilst her mother, Samantha puts up false, but well manicured appearance, to hide her sadness. Gemma is a good student and her parents are able to brag about her achievements at their many social engagements, until she falls in love with her musician boyfriend Ben. They have a wonderful six month relationship where they make gooey plans of living together off Gemma’s inheritance and how they will make beautiful babies! Gemma is besotted with her boyfriend, but when things begin to cool off as Ben’s gigs become more successful Gemma naively gets crossed wires and truly believes that having a baby with Ben will bring them closer together and as you may guess from the title results in a teen pregnancy scandal. Although Gemma is rather naive and bolshie you do want to see what happens with her, she has this youthful bubble world created in her mind about how things are going to work out. She brings a slightly deluded by romance, optimistic outlook on teen pregnancy. When Gemma is delivered to Louise at an uncomfortable afternoon tea arranged between Louise’s sister and Gemma’s parents to encourage some ‘sense talk’, Gemma impresses Louise with her ‘togetherness’ and they bond, hiding in the kitchen where they agree a story for each of their families on their big pregnancy chat.

As their pregnancies progress there is heartbreak, new romances and betrayal between the three friends as secrets unravel. You find yourself entwined into their lives, quite fluidly, and although with chick lit plots the betrayal is inevitable, you still find yourself wishing you could get in touch with the betrayed to tell them the other side for a reconciliation. As with friendships they are dotted along with humour and for me the pinnacle point is the antenatal classes which brings in some minor characters to open the girls eyes to the new world of debate around hypnobirthing versus epidurals, and the poor antenatal teacher bombarded with questions like “what do I have to say to get an epidural”.

Verdict : A lovely easy read for mothers of all ages, with fun characters mixed with a variety of first romances to long-distance ones too! I especially liked the quirkiness of Trimesters and not chapters and found it quite easy to jump between the main character’s varying plotlines along the way. Babies in Waiting has a refreshing perspective on teen pregnancy running alongside a rather empathic reflection of people dealing with fertility issues. Also, I love an author who gives you a tidy epilogue with a little ‘Did they? Didn’t they?” sparkly question at the end!

Reviewed by Sam

Publisher: Quercus
Publication Date: March 2012
Format: eBook
Pages: 465
Genre: Chick Lit
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Sam
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British book
Posted on:

Happy Publication Day: The Diamond Thief

Happy Book Birthday to Sharon Gosling and her middle grade debut, The Diamond Thief ( read Daisy’s thoughts here)
We are beside ourselves with excitment to be able to share with you the opening pages of this fabulous stream punk adventure. A massive thank you to the kind people at Curious Fox( learn more here )for granting us permission to post this extract.

the diamond thiefNo one performs on the circus trapeze like sixteen-year-old Remy Brunel. But Remy also leads another life, as a cat burglar and jewel thief. Forced by the evil circus owner Gustave to attempt the theft of one of the world’s most valuable diamonds, Remy thinks it will be just another heist, but when she meets determined young detective Thaddeus Rec, her life changes forever.
Will Thaddeus manage to rescue the jewel? Or is it really Remy that he needs to save?

Le Cirque de la Lune

Rémy took a deep breath as she stood on the edge of the narrow plunge board. Above her, the old material of the big top’s roof was close enough to touch. Below her was nothing at all but air dirtied by dust and tobacco smoke, and then, sixty feet below, arranged around the sawdust of the circus ring, there was the crowd. She could almost hear their silence, the collected indrawn breath of five hundred people. They were all waiting to see what she could do. They wanted to see her tumble through the air above them, to dive and swoop, hanging from a thin metal bar suspended only by two old ropes. And perhaps…just perhaps, this time, she would fall.

Beside her, Larotti balanced precariously, holding her trapeze still. Rémy dipped her hands in the chalk bowl, clapping them together to send a shower of white dust raining through the flickering gaslight. Then she nodded once, chin held high. The little Italian let go as the strains of Saint-Saëns’ “Danse Macabre” began to rise from the ragged little orchestra below. Rémy counted two beats as the trapeze dropped away. Then she leapt, into thin air.

10 For a second, there was nothing to keep her from falling to a horrible death. The crowd gasped, and then, as Rémy’s fingers caught the fleeing trapeze, they sighed in relief. The sound rippled around the huge tent like a breeze, shivering its faded red and yellow stripes.

Rémy twisted lightly, graceful as a bird. She was wearing her favourite costume – it was cerise pink, edged in black, and, even though it was old and had been repaired more times than she could remember, it still stood out perfectly against her pale skin and unruly black hair. Rémy wore it with long fishnet stockings and greasepaint around her eyes, which made her look like a harlequin. Claudette had fashioned a flower from a scrap of almost-matching satin for her hair, along with two long, thin feathers dyed pitch black. From a distance, people said Rémy looked like a bird of paradise, flying on invisible wings. She flipped herself backwards, letting go of the bar with her hands and catching the trapeze with her feet instead, arms stretching down towards the sawdust. Rémy flicked her hips to the right, sending the trapeze into a fast spin as she let one foot come loose and held it straight out, so the audience could see that now, it was only by one ankle that she had any hold at all. Slowing the spin, Rémy righted herself again, dancing up to stand on her hands on the bar before somersaulting backwards as the trapeze swung in a graceful arc above the crowd.

Far below her, Rémy heard Claudette’s sharp whistle echo in the distance. Glancing down, she saw Dominique canter into the sawdust circle. The little palomino wore an old tan saddle and a feather headdress to match Rémy’s own, and on her back was Nicodemus. The pony circled, her pace steady as the wizened little capuchin monkey began to somersault too, over and over, copying Rémy’s movements on Domnique’s back. The crowd roared with laughter, pointing and clapping and slapping their thighs in delight.

Rémy swung the trapeze twice more, gathering speed as the music built and built. She somersaulted again and again, faster and faster. Below, Nicodemus kept perfect time with her all the way.

And then, as the music reached its crescendo, she somersaulted again, twisting backwards, reaching for the bar…She missed. Her fingers brushed the metal of the trapeze, but did not grip it.

Rémy fell like a stone.

Screams erupted around the big tent. People stood, shouting and pointing. Men waved their tattered hats in the air, women pulled their patched shawls up around their faces or used them to shield their children’s eyes, as Rémy plunged head-first towards the compacted earth of the sawdust ring. She managed to twist in mid-air, a mighty turnabout that tipped her upright. There was a flurry of movement in the corner of her eye. Someone from the audience had lunged over the barrier. It was a young man in a long brown coat and top hat – he was rushing towards her, arms outstretched, as if to break her fall. Rémy’s would-be rescuer was so focused on catching her that he almost stepped straight into the path of her horse. Thankfully, Dominique had seen Rémy falling and knew what she had to do.

The pony butted the man out of the way, hard enough to send him sprawling, but at least out of harm’s way. Then she slowed until she was in exactly the right spot. Nicodemus jumped from her back and ran to the upturned bucket in the middle of the ring. Rémy landed squarely, with both feet, on the pony’s saddle, immediately lifting one leg to stand in ballet pose, her free foot pointing elegantly outwards. Dominique continued to canter in a circle as Rémy rode her one-footed. Still standing on the upturned bucket, Nicodemus saluted them both. There was a second of silence as the crowd realized what had happened. And then the sound of cheering and clapping swept over Rémy like a tide, louder than for any other act that night. But then, it always was.

She dropped until she was seated on the pony’s back, patting Dominique with one hand as she waved to the audience with the other. She’d usually do a couple of victory circuits of the ring to soak up the applause, but tonight Rémy’s gaze searched for the man who had tried to save her. He was still picking himself up, forlornly brushing sawdust from his coat. “Sorry,” she called over the thunderous sound of the audience as she pulled Dominique to a halt beside him. “She is trained not to let anything get in her way when we do my act. If she had stopped, I would have died. And you too, probably. I would have crushed you!”

The young man looked up at her. To her surprise, she saw he couldn’t be that much older than she was. It was his eyes that really startled her, though. They were two different colours – one as blue as the sky over Paris on a bright day in May, one as deep brown as good chocolate. And they twinkled. He bent down to retrieve his hat and pushed it on over his mussed hair before replying.

“Well,” he said with a slight smile. “That’ll teach me to be a good Samaritan, won’t it? People do keep telling me I shouldn’t bother. Good day, miss.”

He tipped his hat briefly and then turned away. A second later, he was lost in the crowd. Rémy’s gaze tried to follow him, but it was no good. He was gone.

She and Dominique did one more circuit of the ring and then left the big top, Nicodemus skittering along in their wake. Claudette was waiting for her at the players’ entrance. The little monkey rushed off into the thick night, through London’s chill drizzle and back to the animal enclosure. Claudette tutted as she saw Rémy adjust her opal necklace, pulling it down from where it had flown up around her ears as she’d fallen. “You know you should not wear that on the wire, ma chérie,” Claudette chided in her gentle, sing-song voice, as Rémy slid gracefully from Dominique’s back. “One of these days, you will strangle yourself. And it will be a night like tonight, when someone stupid tries to save the girl who does not need to be saved.”

Rémy grinned as she took the threadbare black robe Claudette held out and pulled it on over her head. She kicked off the silver slippers she always wore on the trapeze and struggled into her boots, instead. They were leather, black and worn like everything else she possessed, and the only pair she had owned since she was ten – six whole years. “Never, Claudette. You know me – I live a charmed life. Probably because I never take my opal off.”

Claudette shook her head with long-suffering patience, her thick chestnut hair hanging loose around her shoulders. At 24, she was eight years older than Rémy, and along with her little daughter, Amélie, was the closest thing Rémy had to a family. “Well, I hope your charm is at full power tonight,” Claudette told her. “Gustave wants to see you.”

Rémy made a face and sighed. “Ach. It must be time.” Claudette raised an eyebrow. Her eyes seemed even darker than usual, and they bore a trace of worry. “Take care, chérie. This one will be difficult, I think. We are not in France now, you know. This is the great city of London, not a little town in Provence.” Rémy straightened up and wiped rain from her eyes as she regarded her friend. Claudette was a fortune-teller and talented pickpocket. She could take a wallet from its owner and they would swear blind she’d never even been close enough to touch them. They were all vagabonds and thieves at Le Cirque de la Lune – and Rémy… well, Rémy was queen of them all. She’d been stealing since she was old enough to walk, and a jewel thief since she’d learned how to work the wire aged eight. Now, she was the best gem snatcher in Europe, probably in the whole of the world. Rémy had never been caught. And, she thought to herself, I never will be. Never.

“You worry too much,” she said. “Why should this be different to any other? They’ll never catch me, Claudette. That is what makes me so valuable to Gustave, yes?” Claudette sighed. “You should not take these things too lightly, Rémy,” she warned. “One day your luck will run out. And in any case, this life… it is not good enough for you. You should run, while you still can. Gustave could not –” Rémy shook her head. “When I can take you and Amélie with me, then we will all go,” she said. “But not before. We need money! And now is not the time for this old argument of ours, ma belle amie. I must go before the old goat gets too impatient. Kiss Amélie goodnight for me. Tell her she must sleep well because Dominique will be waiting to give her another lesson in the morning.”

Claudette smiled, taking Dominique’s reigns and digging a sugar-lump from her pocket as she led her away. “Then you had better make sure you come back, hadn’t you, Little Bird?” Rémy watched Claudette disappear into the thick black shadows of the circus tents. Behind her, the last of the audience was leaving, laughing and chattering. She smiled. She had been good tonight – really good, even despite the almost-disaster caused by the boy with the mismatched eyes. Rémy was always good, she knew that, but some nights it felt as if she could walk on air, and those were always her best performances. Not that Gustave ever paid her extra, or praised her work. He was more interested in her other, illegal, skills.

Rémy looked towards his caravan. It stood apart from the rest, at the back of the field he had rented for them. Well, Gustave called it a field, but it was really just a barren patch of land behind the Spitalfields market, turned to mud by the never-ending rain. Rémy glanced up, blinking into the night gloom at the sooty grey clouds that seemed permanently gathered overhead. Out beyond the market square, the buildings of London slouched towards each other as if sheltering together from the miserable weather. Lights flickered and guttered in windows caked with grime and soot. The silhouettes of the taller townhouses of the East End loomed darkly over the cobbled streets. It was the first time Rémy had left France, and she’d expected a better, brighter place. But there was as much dirt and poverty here as at home, and the bread was bad, too. She dreamed of a life somewhere else, somewhere sunny, where she did not have to steal. One day…Rémy pulled her hands into her sleeves and scuffed the toe of her boot into the mud. ‘One day’ was not tonight, she reminded herself. Tonight, she had to steal the second biggest diamond in the world.

Squaring her shoulders, she headed for Gustave’s haunt. She could hear music from inside the caravan, and knew it was Dorffman, the German, playing his violin. He was supposed to be the circus’s chief carpenter, but ever since Gustave had uncovered Dorffman’s musical skills, he’d made him play every night as the circus owner ate. Rémy wondered what crime the man had committed to end up in this place. She liked him, he seemed nice, but it could be anything. Murder, maybe, although it was more likely to be theft…but everyone at Le Cirque de la Lune had their own story. One day she would ask, she decided, as she mounted the rickety painted steps to her master’s door. “Come!” Came the yell of his voice as she knocked. Inside, Gustave was at his dinner, tearing a whole roast chicken apart with his fat fingers. The sight of the grease trickling down over his knuckles turned Rémy’s stomach and made her forget that she hadn’t eaten since lunch, and then only a round of gritty, grey bread and dripping.

The circus owner glanced up at her. “The cloud is thick tonight. It is Friday, the police are tired after their long week,” he grunted. “But still, now is not the time.” She blinked, surprised. “No?”

“No,” Gustave rumbled around a mouthful of food. “You see, this is important. More important than any other job you’ve ever done. And so I want you to do a…reconnoitre. Find the best way in, determine where the guards are stationed and, more importantly, establish your escape route. Make the plan infallible, yes? You must not fail me, Rémy.” For a moment, Rémy was speechless. He’d never asked her to do reconnaissance before. And she had never, ever failed him. She had never even come close to failing. Seeing her indignation, Gustave sighed and put down his chicken. “You know where this jewel is being kept?” “In the Tower of London, master.”

“Yes,” he said, his voice dry. “The Tower of London. Make no mistake, my little thieving genius. However good you are, this is going to be the hardest thing you have ever tried. So, reconnaissance. There is to be a reception for the great and the good at the Tower tomorrow night. It is the perfect opportunity for you to learn everything you need to know about where the jewel is held. Now, tell me what you are looking for.” “The Darya-ye Noor,” Rémy huffed.

“And what are you not looking for?”

“The Koh-i Noor. I know.”

He snorted, sending flecks of grease and chicken flesh to pepper the table. “You think you know everything, do you not, little Rémy? Can you tell me the difference between the two?” Rémy sighed. Gustave had been lecturing her on this for weeks. As if she couldn’t tell one diamond from another. As if she hadn’t been born able to know the worth of a gem just by looking at it. Rémy remembered every precious stone she’d ever seen in her life, and she could feel all of them now as if she held them still. In her hands jewels were living things, and they seemed to like her. They fell towards her fingers gratefully. She knew them. The thief toyed with the opal around her neck absently, and recited Gustave’s lessons.

“The Koh-i Noor – the Mountain of Light – and the Darya-ye Noor – the Ocean of Light – are sister-stones. They were both mined from Golconda in India more than a century ago. Now Queen Victoria owns the Mountain of Light, and the Shah of Persia owns the Ocean of Light. And for the first time since they were both mined, the stones are back together. In the Tower of London. So that is why we are here.”

“And what do we want?”

“The ocean, not the mountain,” Rémy repeated, dutifully. Gustave’s pudgy, pasty face creased into a frown. “Remember that, Little Bird. The Ocean is smaller than the Mountain, but prettier. And it belongs to the Shah, not the Queen, so the good policemen of London will not care so much about it. Get in, take it, get out. That’s what you need to do when the time is right. Do not get distracted by the larger stone. Do you understand me?”

“Yes, master.”

He nodded slowly, and then held up the remains of his dinner’s carcass. “Do that, and there will be one of these for you. You can share it with that light-fingered friend of yours. And her strange little whelp, if you really do insist on feeding it.” Rémy held herself still, but she wanted to hit him. How dare he talk about Amélie like that? Just because she was different, just because she didn’t speak. How dare he – “Well?” Gustave bellowed. “What are you waiting for? Go!
Prepare!”

Rémy gritted her teeth and left, slamming the door as she ran down the steps. The sound was masked by Dorffman and his mournful violin, the ripple of sad strings rising into the dead, wet night.

* * *

Posted on:

Sister Assassin

Kiersten White
sister assassinShe never chose her deadly gift but now she’s forced to use it. How far would you go to protect the only family you have left?
Annie is beset by fleeting strange visions and a guilty conscience. Blind and orphaned, she struggles to care for her feisty younger sister Fia, but things look up when both sisters are offered a place at Kessler School for Exceptional Girls.
Born with flawless intuition, Fia immediately knows that something’s wrong, but bites her tongue… until it’s too late. For Fia is the perfect weapon to carry out criminal plans and there are those at Kessler who will do anything to ensure her co-operation.
With Annie trapped in Kessler’s sinister clutches, instincts keep Fia from killing an innocent guy and everything unravels. Is manipulative James the key to the sisters’ freedom or an even darker prison? And how can Fia atone for the blood on her hands?

Well I’ve got to give to give it to Kiersten White, Sister Assassin is a fast paced, rollercoaster of a supernatural book and what’s more it’s actually original! Annie and Fia are sisters, when their parents die they are sent to live with an Aunt that doesn’t really want them. Hearing that Annie has visions of the future the Kessler School offers Annie a place, originally there was no place for Fia, until the school works out that Fia has perfect instincts and as such can be more valuable than Annie could ever have been.

Sister Assassin is a very, very easy read. It’s one of those books that draws you in and before you know it hours have passed and you are staring at the last page. Told from the point of view of both Fia and Annie and jumping around on the timeline did leave a little confused occasionally. It is however made very clear who is speaking and when at the beginning of chapters, I’m terrible for not reading these though so any confusion is probably my fault. That the story didn’t follow a chronological timeline did mean that the tension was racketed up a notch. It meant that you found out crucial details slowly, some surprising, some not. But it really added to the need to keep on reading. Also in some ways it kind of makes sense to do it this way when one of the main characters can see into the future anyway. On the whole Fia and Annie voices were different enough that it meant it was easy to tell between the two.

The characterization in this book was fantastic. All of the characters were flawed and had aspects of their personality that were utterly unlikeable, but they also had redeemable features. My favourite was Fia, strong but undeniably broken. Committing unimaginable acts in order to protect her sister, I couldn’t help but like her. I also quite liked James, who is supposed to be a fairly dark character. But then that was one thing that I liked about the book, that characters could be dark and do horrible things but somehow be one of the good guys. For me this reflects the complexities of life and those various shades of grey that lie between good and evil.

One very strong theme throughout the book is the lengths that people will go to to protect the people that they love. This is seen mainly in the case of Fia and Annie where both are prepared to sacrifice a lot for the other. You do also see it in a number of minor characters as well. In fact it is in this willingness to protect that we see the redeemable features of some of the characters.

This book very much sets up a series, but is fairly unusual in that it reaches a good enough conclusion to be read as a standalone book. This was a big plus point for me. I love reading series, but get frustrated with cliffhangers and having to wait. This was a happy medium.

Verdict: Original and fast paced. A sure fire winner.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s
Publication Date: February 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 302
Genre: Paranormal, Mystery
Age: YA
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: None
Posted on: