Sunday, March 31, 2013

Coverlicious Comparison: Love it or hate it with a PASSION?


Left: AU/UK/US   Right: Portugese

A recent comment entirely out of the blue brought this to my attention — a entirely different cover for Lauren Kate's Passion.

Love 'em or hate 'em, what initially drew me to the series was the utterly gorgeous cover of Fallen. I liked Torment less, and when Passion came out? It's fair to say I hate the AU/US/UK cover with a passion. The girl looks skeletal, her arms are creepily thin and oddly re-colored, and the funereal veil of hair complete with 1980's crimping (see the fully blown up version here for detail)? Make me shudder. And the dress! The lovely voluminous gowns from Fallen and Torment are absent, replaced with... well, you get the point.

I love the drama of the Portugese version —the passion. The feel evokes what I loved about the cover of Fallen, and the cover for Rapture.
My opinion's clear, but what about you? Let the cover wars begin:

The version you know, or the version that could have been?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Biting Cold (Chicagoland Vampires #6), Chloe Neill

Biting Cold, Chloe NeillTitle: Biting Cold (Chicagoland Vampires #6)
Author: Chloe Neill (author website)
Release Date: November 1st 2011
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy
My Rating:1 star2 star3 star4 star

I've long been a fan of Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampires. The funny, relatable heroine, the very-human vampires, the utter obsession with food—all combine to create a world I love coming home to. We're six books in now, and I've been there all along—but Biting Cold and I didn't get off to a good start. I thought it was going through the motions, plodding along; meanwhile, it kept telling me to sit down, shut up, and buckle up for the ride.

I hate being told what to do.
It's funny how that works out, because it always so happens that it's best when I comply.
From Goodreads:
Clouds are brewing over Cadogan House, and Merit the vampire can't tell if this is the darkness before the dawn, or the calm before the storm. With the city itself in turmoil over paranormals and the state threatening to pass a paranormal registration act, times have never been more precarious for the vampires. If only they could lay low for a bit...Then magic rears its ugly head when Lake Michigan turns black. The mayor insists it's nothing to worry about, but Merit knows a panic is coming. She'll have to turn to friends old and new to find out who's behind this, and stop them before it's too late for both the vampires and humans.

It's been a long wait between Drink Deep and Biting Cold for me—a year or more—but time has not passed in Chicagoland, picking up immediately following the conclusion of Drink Deep. This is not a book for newcomers, nor is it easy to write a review on the back of the series' last installment (especially given potential for spoilers). With five books of complex politics, training, and infuriating, addicting, stop/start romance, Merit's back, as are the rest of the gang—the good and the bad. And the very, very bad.

Tasked with tracking down a threat not just to her vampire-family, Cadogan House, or even her city, but the entire world's continued existence, we join Merit—graduate-student turned-reluctant-vampire—on route to secure a magical book that could prove the key to halting the world's destruction. And “halt” is a word long-time Chicagolanders will learn to hate by the time Biting Cold is through. The blurb of Biting Cold tells as much as I have so far, but what you may not know is that you're looking at a mere third of the novel, and it's safety off, brake lines cut the rest of the way through.

Much of Biting Cold's action happens in its final chapters, but there is more than one kind of action. Whether it's sparring, bickering, eating 'mallocakes' (marshmallow filled, chocolate covered cakes, people!) or navigating the dangerous pathways of local and international politics—both human and those of a dangerous vampire Grand Poobah—there is never time for rest in this world. There is, occasionally, some time for other bed-bound activities, and fans will get their share of such carnal delights here, making Biting Cold the steamiest installment of the series so far. Finally.

On the topic of 'finallies' Neill offers more than a few of them, providing resolution and satisfaction in a number of key relationships, and—one of those most fulfilling points of all—long awaited answers. Specifically on the question of one of Chicagoland's longest-standing riddles: ex-mayor of Chicago, the enigmatic Seth Tate.

Despite all this, I do hesitate to call Biting Cold action-packed. To be fair, well, it is, but for a large chunk, I was waiting, even while watching it happen. The complicated entanglements in Neill's Chicagoland world are infuriating, stopping before they start, and they continue, here. While I can see the players moving towards their finales and happily-ever-afters, the series is hardly changing down gears, or moving towards a conclusion—Neill is not done yet. This was a book made, for me, by its thrilling final chapters, each of which left me a breathless, crazed mess. I keep finding myself staring off into space, daydreaming about Merit and her pals and itching for more. Well. Just as well House Rules is already on its way to my Kindle.

Biting Cold, I'm sorry I doubted you, darling.

Books in This Series:

  1. Some Girls Bite

  2. Friday Night Bites

  3. Twice Bitten

  4. Hard Bitten

  5. Drink Deep

  6. Biting Cold

Want It?

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Gathering Dark (The Grisha #1), Leigh Bardugo

the gathering dark leigh bardugoTitle: The Gathering Dark/Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo (author website | blog)
Release Date: June 2012 by Indigo/Hachette Australia
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating:1 star2 star3 star4 star5 star

Every now and then you fall in love with a book (I do, too, for that matter). The kind of love for which the stars align and angels sing on high. It may be perfect, or perhaps its imperfections make it so. Nevertheless, it calls to you, something inside it sounding in recognition, and you know the weight of true love. This book, the one you fall for, flaws and all, or despite its blinding perfection, is the hardest to discuss and review. How do you communicate the depth of that affection in a few brief sentences? Well, I suppose you gush—you've been warned.
From Goodreads:
Sweeping, glorious fantasy romance about an orphan who must save her kingdom from the seductive and terrifying Darkling. The most compelling romance since Twilight.The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom's magical elite - the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina's childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can't she ever quite forget him?

shadow and bone leigh bardugo‘Like calls to like’, is the mantra of the Grisha, the powerful mages reviled and worshipped in the country of Ravka, a reimagined, fantasy Russia. And so it is, like called to me from the heart of The Gathering Dark/Shadow and Bone, touching something deeper than an intellectual appreciation alone. Bardugo’s debut struck a chord with me, still humming with the long keening echo that remains after the sound.

We’ve heard similar stories before: Simple, ordinary girl discovers extraordinary powers and is drawn into danger and intrigue and Destined To Save The World, and, at its simplest, this is the tale of The Gathering Dark, also. Alina Starkov, orphan—cartographer in the King’s Army—and best friend to a boy who is not so different to herself, discovers a power her people have awaited for centuries. It turns out she is rather different, afterall—she is a Grisha.

‘Grisha’ are a part of life in Ravka, able to wield fire, water, or air; heal with a glance; or rip a heart from a chest. The most powerful of them can control darkness itself, and he stands alone, ruling them all: The Darkling. And the Darkling, powerful and compelling, has been waiting for Alina longest of all. He believes that, together, they will change the world.

He is not wrong. He seldom is.

For all The Gathering Dark’s treasures, from its ‘everygirl’ heroine, to its charming cast of secondary characters, it is this Darkling that shines the brightest, despite his name, and not for inspiring schoolgirl crushes alone. Compelling and enigmatic, he is, to quote another reviewer, “one of the most amazingly crafted, heartbreaking characters of YA.” It’s rare I find a character gets so deep under my skin I’m still feeling him hours and days later, itching like phantom limbs.

Darklings aside—especially when they are not our narrators—The Gathering Dark boasts a strong, admirable protagonist, as any good fantasy should, but her strength is internal, despite crippling self-doubt. Alina is likeable and capable, and the ease with which her voice flows through the novel’s pages adds to its pull. What captured me most was the intensity of feeling she shared with me, the reader; how she drew me into friendships and romances I felt passionately about.

While the world of The Gathering Dark is immersive and lovely, strange and foreign, it’s a largely character driven tale, but then, the beginnings of most heroes’ journeys are. That aside, the Russian inspiration of the world of Ravka lends it a new and exciting texture, unique from the European-themed high fantasies which have long dominated the genre.

The Verdict

I’m not sure I believe in perfect books, not really. For me, ‘perfect’ is utterly subjective; a feeling, not a fact. "Perfect", to me, is the book which captures my imagination, and something deeper, more profound—the kind of book I would read as a child and search deep inside myself afterwards, looking for hidden powers, and perhaps still do in adulthood. Filled with mystery, wonder, magic and dread, The Gathering Dark is precisely such a book.

Books in This Series:

  • The Gathering Dark (AU/UK) / Shadow and Bone (US) June 2012

  • The Shadow Fold (AU/UK) / Siege and Storm (US) June 2013

An enormous thank you to Hachette Australia for providing a review copy of The Gathering Dark/Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo


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