9 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday 46

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that allows readers to showcase eagerly awaited upcoming releases.

This week I’ve picked The Severed Tower by J. Barton Mitchell

  • Expected publication: November 19th 2013 by St. Martin’s Griffin
  • Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
  • Series: Conquered Earth, Book 2
  • ISBN13: 9781250009470 ISBN10: 1250009472
  • Goodreads / The Book Depository

No synopsis yet.

I enjoyed Midnight City, the first book of this series, immensely. I loved the characters, Holt, Mira and Zoey, and the world the author created: an earth after alien invasion. One of the things that really impressed me is the otherness of the aliens – I’m always wary of aliens that seem too human, because I feel like it’s cheating on the author’s part. Midnight City is a brilliant 2012 début novel, and I can’t wait for the sequel.

The Conquered Earth series by J. Barton Mitchell

My review of Midnight City by J. Barton Mitchell

I’d love to see what you are waiting on … please leave links and I’ll be sure to check them out!

4 Comments

Stocktake Saturday 57

Welcome to Stocktake Saturday! This feature is where I share some bookish news with you and then show you all the bookish goodies I got over the week.


The cover reveals from the last week  – (links to Goodreads pages)

  • Reunion (Rift Runners #3) by Jennifer Fallon – I love it, I love the green!
  • Wings (Black City #3) by Elizabeth Richards
  • Student Bodies (Poltergeeks #2) by Sean Cummings
  • Panic by Lauren Oliver
  • Pawn (The Blackcoat Rebellion #1) by Aimee Carter
  • Monsters (The Ashes Trilogy #3) by Ilsa J. Bick – AU cover – this is gorgeous!!! ❤
  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (Harry Potter #6) by J.K. Rowling – US paperback cover. Check out all the new US paperback covers here.


In Bookish News, Patrick Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicle has been optioned to be developed into a drama series for TV by New Regency Productions and 20th Century Fox Television. Read the announcement here

In case you were waiting for Invisibility by Andrea Cremer and David Levithan to be published in Australia, PenguinTeen AU has announced it will be available in all good Aussie bookstores on 24 July, along with their reprinted 50 green crime classics (more information on them here).

Veronica Roth has announced at Comic Con that Allegiant will be written in dual point-of-view (Tris and Four), with chapters alternating between them.

Joe Abercrombie has sold a new fantasy series to HarperVoyager. The new series will be set in an alternative-Europe (so not the First Law world), with each volume loosely connected to the others rather than forming a single story. The new books will also be aimed at a wider audience than his previous works – the intended audience is both adults and younger readers. The first book, to be released in 2014, will be called Half a King.

Strange Chemistry has signed début author Lisa O’Kane in a two-book deal. They have acquired the world rights to her first novel, Essence, with a release date of Spring 2014 (Australian Autumn 2014) and an as-yet-unamed sequel, with a 2015 release date. About Essence:

Essence combines The Beach‘s illusion of paradise with Divergent‘s adrenaline-fueled adventures.

Neutrality is the key to longevity. This motto has governed 17-year-old Autumn’s life in the mid-21st-century Centrist cult, which believes that expressing emotions leads to Essence drain and premature death.

But Autumn’s younger brother’s death casts her faith into question. While sprinting through a park in violation of Centrist teachings, she encounters Ryder Stone, an Outsider who claims Essence drain is nothing more than a Centrist scare tactic. She agrees to join his Community, a utopia of adrenaline junkies living in the abandoned remains of Yosemite National Park.

Autumn learns about sex, drugs, and living life to the fullest. But as she discovers dark secrets beneath the Community’s perfect exterior, she realises that this illusion of paradise could be shattered …

This week I’ve been Waiting On … Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt.

My book haul this week, thanks to Hachette AU (links to Goodreads):

Last time I was 6 books ahead in my Read Three, Buy One scheme, with two purchases unlocked! It won’t surprise you to know I’ve already used them up:

I reviewed the following books this week:

  1. iD: The Second Machine Dynasty by Madeline Ashby
  2. Planesrunner by Ian McDonald

Which leaves me 1 book behind!

I hope you have some goodies to share as well, leave your links below and I’ll be sure to visit 🙂

Happy Reading!

1 Comment

Planesrunner by Ian McDonald

  • Date published: 1st January 2013
  • Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
  • Format: Paperback, 371 pages
  • Series: Everness, Book 1
  • ISBN 13: 9781780876795 ISBN 10: 1780876793
  • Categories: Science Fiction
  • Goodreads / The Book DepositoryBooktopia / Bookworld
  • Source: provided for review by publisher

There is not one you. There are many yous. There is not one world. There are many worlds. Ours is one among billions of parallel earths.

When Everett Singh’s scientist father is kidnapped from the streets of London, he leaves young Everett a mysterious app on his computer. Suddenly, this teenager has become the owner of the most valuable object in the multiverse—the Infundibulum—the map of all the parallel earths, and there are dark forces in the Ten Known Worlds who will stop at nothing to get it. They’ve got power, authority, the might of ten planets—some of them more technologically advanced than our Earth—at their fingertips. He’s got wits, intelligence, and a knack for Indian cooking.

To keep the Infundibulum safe, Everett must trick his way through the Heisenberg Gate that his dad helped build and go on the run in a parallel Earth. But to rescue his dad from Charlotte Villiers and the sinister Order, this Planesrunner’s going to need friends. Friends like Captain Anastasia Sixsmyth, her adopted daughter, Sen, and the crew of the airship Everness.

It’s official: Planesrunner is an exhilarating read! It’s a perfectly balanced tale of science and adventure, and I enjoyed it immensely. I am so glad I have the sequel ready to devour!

My favourite aspect of the book is the world-building. Parallel universe and multiplicity are the main concerns of the novel, and when Everett’s father, a theoretical physicist, finds a way to open gates into the these other worlds, and creates a map for them, Everett’s life changes forever. Soon we’re careening into an alternate London, where fossil fuels never took off, and steam generated electricity is main power source. And instead of aeroplanes, transportation over large distances is completed in … airships! I loved it all, and I feel that this other world is tangibly different from ours. Sometimes authors create their parallel worlds with things that are too familiar, but McDonald gives it new cultures, a new history and even a new language (that was fun!)

Another thing I really admire is  how McDonald explains the science behind the multiple universes theory. This story is well grounded in physics, and all the concepts are very well explained. I’m in awe at how the author incorporates the necessary background without breaking from the action of the story – I didn’t think the science was too heavy-handed, and the concepts are introduced clearly and concisely.

Everett Singh is our main protagonist, a young boy with Punjabi Indian heritage and a passion for all things science. He’s also a genius: he understands abstract scientific concepts naturally, and can apparently think in seven dimensions, and he’s an amazing chef. Ok, so he’s unrealistic, unbelievable, too perfect. But it somehow went with the story – I think everything else was so fantastical and awesome that I was able to overlook the fact that Everett is amazing at everything he does and doesn’t have any discernible flaws. I’m biased though – I think I also just really enjoyed a protagonist whom I could relate to on a cultural level, and a lot of the commentary on Punjabi and Indian families rang true for me.

Where Planesrunner shines is its secondary cast – the crew of the Everness. The crew of the Everness is led by Captain Anastasia Sixsmyth, a woman I instantly admired for her forthrightness and spunk. Her daughter, Sen Sixsmyth, is the pilot of the Everness, and an amazing, quirky girl. I really like Sen, but I found it weird that she automatically assumed that Everett was homosexual when he didn’t display interest in her. I don’t like that kind of thinking – ‘you’re not interested in me, so you mustn’t bat for my team’ – Sen can’t seem to understand it might just be her. The rest of the crew is made up of the hilarious Bible quoting Sharkey, and the stoic, sort-of mysterious Mchynlyth, a Punjabi-Scot. The villain of the story, Charlotte Villiers, is by contrast almost cartoonish, with the author neglecting to allow readers to understand her at all.

Disappointingly, Planesrunner doesn’t really explore the idea of multiple versions of the same person running into one another. It’s mentioned, but considering it’s the very first thing in the blurb, I had expected more of an emphasis on this aspect of the multiple-universe theory.

Overall, Planesrunner is an incredible read, and I recommend it to anyone who likes science fiction. I think the world building and amazing execution will impress many readers, and look forward to reading the sequel, Be My Enemy, soon.

13 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday 45

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that allows readers to showcase eagerly awaited upcoming releases.

This week I’ve picked Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt

  • Expected publication: October 22nd 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780316212946 ISBN10: 0316212946
  • Goodreads / The Book Depository

The best writers of our generation retell the classics.

Literature is filled with sexy, deadly, and downright twisted tales. In this collection, award-winning and bestselling authors reimagine their favorite classic stories, ones that have inspired, awed, and enraged them; ones that have become ingrained in modern culture; and ones that have been too long overlooked. They take these stories and boil them down to their bones, and then reassemble them for a new generation of readers.

Today’s most acclaimed authors use their own unique styles to rebuild these twelve timeless stories:

Sir Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene – Saladin Ahmed

W. W. Jacobs’s “The Monkey’s Paw” – Kelley Armstrong

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Carmilla” – Holly Black

“Sleeping Beauty” – Neil Gaiman

The Brothers Grimm’s “Rumpelstiltskin” – Kami Garcia

Kate Chopin’s The Awakening – Melissa Marr

Rudyard Kipling’s “The Man Who Would Be King” – Garth Nix

Henry James’s “The Jolly Corner” – Tim Pratt

E. M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” – Carrie Ryan

Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto – Margaret Stohl

William Seabrook’s “The Caged White Werewolf of the Saraban” – Gene Wolfe

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birth-Mark” – Rick Yancey

And six illustrations by Charles Vess

Must. Have. Immediately.

I love fairytale retellings, and some of my favourite authors are going to be in this! I can’t wait.

I’d love to see what you are waiting on … please leave links and I’ll be sure to check them out!

Leave a comment

iD: The Second Machine Dynasty by Madeline Ashby

Javier is a self-replicating humanoid on a journey of redemption.

Javier’s quest takes him from Amy’s island, where his actions have devastating consequences for his friend, toward Mecha where he will find either salvation… or death.

Taking up close to where vN left off, iD follows Javier’s journey to set things right after everything goes wrong on Amy’s island. Although I liked the book well enough, I feel that some of the magic was missing, and I’m not convinced that Javier is as compelling a protagonist as Amy was.

Javier makes a few silly decisions throughout this book, and the idea behind them is that he lacks the freedom to have done anything differently. While the focus of vN was very much about the rights that a robot can expect in the human world, iD closely explores the consequences of the failsafe in robots. The failsafe ensures that robots freeze or blue-screen if they harm a human being, or witness harm being done to a human being and fail to interfere (like Asimov’s three rules, but subtly different). The failsafe is the reason that Javier, initially programmed for the use of humans to gratify their … cravings, is especially vulnerable. The question of whether a human can rape a robot, especially one that is compelled to do everything it can to make sure humans are happy, is at the forefront of this story. I’m not sure how I felt about it. I think it’s an interesting, compelling question to ask, but I soon tired of just how many sexual interactions there are in the book. It made me deeply uncomfortable to see Javier treated that way, and to see him use sex as a tool to get the answers he was after. But this is very much the idea behind the book.

I liked getting to see other communities of robots, and especially learning what they thought of Amy, her rebellion, and her island. I think these interactions provided a lot of information about lives of different castes of robots. The world has also expanded so we get a feel for what humans feel about robots as well – the last book was filled with humans who wanted to control Amy because her failsafe wasn’t working, but this book features humans on a broader spectrum.

I had difficulty connecting with the plot of iD – something about it failed to engage with me. Most of this can be attributed to the change in protagonist – as I outlined before, he failed to really click with me. However, I also think this book is less thrilling in general, and iD feels like it was extended or padded out. A lot of the action could have been condensed into a shorter, punchier book, in my opinion

Overall, iD is an enjoyable read, but I struggled with the changes in protagonist and focus. I liked getting to know the story-world a lot better, and am still sufficiently invested in the characters to be excited about the next book in the sequence.

3 Comments

Stocktake Saturday 56

Welcome to Stocktake Saturday! This feature is where I share some bookish news with you and then show you all the bookish goodies I got over the week.


The cover reveals from the last week  – (links to Goodreads pages)


In Bookish News, the cover of Matthew Reilly’s newest book, The Tournament, has been released. I’m excited! The Tournament will be available from Pan Macmillan Australia in Novmber.

I was directed to an amazing resource for finding Australian literature – www.austlit.edu.au – which is a searchable database of books by Australian authors. Check out the list of Australian SFF being released this year! If you’re participating in the Australian Women Writer’s Reading Challenge, or just looking for awesome Aussie books, this website puts titles right at  your fingertips.

Kathleen Peacock’s Thornhill (Hemlock #2) will be released in the UK and Australia as Deadly Thorns, in keeping with our title for the first book of the werewolf-centric series, Deadly Hemlock. The Simon and Schuster AU website states the release date as December 2013.

This week I’ve been Waiting On … Tandem by Anna Jarzab.

My book haul this week, thanks to Allen & Unwin, HarperCollins AU, Hachette AU (links to Goodreads):

E-galleys from NetGalley and Edelweiss:

Last time I was 1 book ahead in my Read Three, Buy One scheme, and I reviewed the following books this week:

  1. The Great Bazaar and Brayan’s Gold by Peter V. Brett
  2. Transparent by Natalie Whipple
  3. Venom by Fiona Paul
  4. The First and The Sparrow by Jason Mott
  5. Ink by Amanda Sun

I’m 6 books ahead.

I hope you have some goodies to share as well, leave your links below and I’ll be sure to visit 🙂

Happy Reading!

5 Comments

Ink by Amanda Sun

I looked down at the paper, still touching the tip of my shoe. I reached for it, flipping the page over to look. Scrawls of ink outlined a drawing of a girl lying on a bench. A sick feeling started to twist in my stomach, like motion sickness. And then the girl in the drawing turned her head, and her inky eyes glared straight into mine.

On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. She doesn’t know the language, she can barely hold a pair of chopsticks, and she can’t seem to get the hang of taking her shoes off whenever she enters a building.

Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they’ll both be targets.

Katie never wanted to move to Japan—now she may not make it out of the country alive.

I am never going to pick up a book because of its cover again. It serves me right, it really does.

Do you know how excited I was about Ink? It is probably the YA début I anticipated the most in 2013, I’m even on a video saying it’s the HarlequinTeen release I’d love to read the most. So you can probably imagine how heart-wrenching it is for me to say this – Ink isn’t the book it’s pretending to be.

The juvenile, non-sensical plot elements that made Twilight one of my most hated reads are present in full force throughout Ink, and the only differences I could discern are the change in setting (Forks to Japan) and mythology (vampires to Japanese Kami). The unbalanced insta-love, the lack of self-preservation instinct on the heroine’s part, the stilted story telling and hazy world building all contributed to my disappointment.

Remember Bella? Remember how she was so irrationally convinced that a vampire, who craved her blood specifically, wouldn’t hurt her? Well Katie sees a mysterious boy at school, one who tries to intimidate her, and she decides the best thing to do is follow him around after school. Because he’s hiding something and she damned well wants to know what it is. Her stalking skills give Edward Cullen a run for his money, and even when it became painfully obvious that Tomohiro was bad news, she continues to follow him around and force her company on him.

When the whole ‘I can do freaky things with the things I draw’ part comes to light, Katie is strangely accepting of the whole thing. No thinking she’s losing her mind, no avoiding Tomohiro because he’s obviously dangerous/crazy/magical. It just didn’t feel realistic to me.

Remember Jacob? Remember how he was just there, Bella’s friend, and then suddenly he was a love interest and it gave you (me) whiplash? Katie makes a mysterious friend named Jun, who’s indescribably hot, but she doesn’t see him in that way. It never, never strikes Katie as weird that Jun turns up everywhere she goes. She’s basically too busy stalking Tomohiro to realise she’s got her own stalker, and even when Jun knows things about her and her friends that prove he’s been following her around, it doesn’t click to Katie as weird until much later.

On the topic of Bella’s Katie’s friends, Yuki and Tanaka are as stereotypical as they get. Yuki is the over-excitable Japanese girl, kept around to provide Katie with alibis and for her to vent her boy-gossip to. Tanaka is the cute guy friend who might be interested in her, and Katie keeps thinking to herself that life would be so much easier if she’d fallen for him instead (remember Mike Newton anyone?).

What I did like about the book is its setting in Japan. I haven’t ever been there, so I can’t comment on whether the descriptions are accurate, but the place that is described in the book is magical, and I’d really love to go there. I feel this novel has a very strong sense of place, and I really enjoyed getting to know a bit more about Japanese life and culture. I’m not sure about the grounding of the supernatural element in Japanese mythology. I don’t feel like it was explained well enough for me to truly understand, but this might be because the characters themselves are stumbling around in the dark.

I also really liked the illustrations that pepper the novel, they bring Tomohiro’s drawings to life and helped me visualise what Katie was seeing.

I wish Ink was more. I wish it was stronger, had a tighter plot line,that Katie and the rest of the characters stood out from the pages. I wish I wasn’t so disappointed. I hope, that if you pick it up, you find it to your liking. I pray the undoubtably pretty cover of the sequel won’t pull me in.

5 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday 44

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that allows readers to showcase eagerly awaited upcoming releases.

This week I’ve picked Tandem by Anna Jarzab

  • Expected publication: October 8th 2013 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
  • Format: Hardcover, 448 pages
  • Series: Many-Worlds Trilogy, Book 1
  • ISBN13: 9780375990779 ISBN10: 0375990771
  • Goodreads / The Book Depository

Everything repeats.
You. Your best friend. Every person you know.
Many worlds. Many lives–infinite possibilities.
Welcome to the multiverse.

Sixteen-year-old Sasha Lawson has only ever known one small, ordinary life. When she was young, she loved her grandfather’s stories of parallel worlds inhabited by girls who looked like her but led totally different lives. Sasha never believed such worlds were real–until now, when she finds herself thrust into one against her will.

To prevent imminent war, Sasha must slip into the life of an alternate version of herself, a princess who has vanished on the eve of her arranged marriage. If Sasha succeeds in fooling everyone, she will be returned home; if she fails, she’ll be trapped in another girl’s life forever. As time runs out, Sasha finds herself torn between two worlds, two lives, and two young men vying for her love–one who knows her secret, and one who thinks she’s someone she’s not.

Another wonderful cover! The concept of parallel worlds and dual identities is becoming a trend in YA literature, and I’m really curious. I still haven’t read Pivot Point or Dualed, but I did like Elizabeth Norris’ Unravelling. I think YA Science Fiction has the potential to be cool, when done well, but I was fairly disappointed with the YA Fantasy trend, so I guess only time will tell.

I’d love to see what you are waiting on … please leave links and I’ll be sure to check them out!

Leave a comment

The First and The Sparrow by Jason Mott

  • Date published: 1st June 2013
  • Publisher: HarlequinMIRA
  • Format: ebook, 25 pages
  • Series: The Returned, Prequel #1
  • ISBN 13: 9781459239081 ISBN 10: 1459239083
  • Categories: Science Fiction, Fantasy
  • Goodreads / Amazon / Kobo / HarlequinAU
  • Source: purchased (Kindle Freebie)

In Jason Mott’s haunting and unforgettable debut novel, The Returned, an impossible miracle is occurring all across the globe. Read how it all begins in this short story, The First.

It’s been just over a year since Edmund Blithe died, and just over a month since his fiancee, Emily, stopped wearing her engagement ring. Emily has finally begun to move on… Until Edmund mysteriously and inexplicably returns, sending the world–and Emily–into a tailspin.

Edmund is only just the beginning. Around the world, people’s loved ones are returning from beyond, seeking only to reenter the lives they left behind. As the world dives deep into uncertainty, Emily and Edmund are determined to find their way back to one another…even if it means risking everything.

This novella is so sweet! It follows Edmund Blithe, who blithely turns up to work, alive and well, exactly a year after his death. Chaos ensues, and soon he’s being questioned by government officials and hounded by the media. But he has no answers – he can’t even remember being dead. According to his memory, he proposed to his girlfriend, Emily, a few days ago, and all he wants to do is see her again.

Emily has spent the last year trying to forget the man who died the day after he proposed to her. She’s stopped wearing the ring, and is finally moving on, when he miraculously comes back from the dead. I felt like I got to know Emily really well in the brief time I was able to spend with her – she’s a strong character who literally flies off the page. I feel that Edmund isn’t as strong, but I think that the author captured his bewilderment and craving for normalcy well.

This prequel novella forms a great introduction into the mysterious phenomenon at the heart of Jason Mott’s The Returned, and the couple have the cutest, cutest story. I hope we get to see how they’re coping in The Returned.

  • Date published: 1st July 2013
  • Publisher: HarlequinMIRA
  • Format: ebook, 26 pages
  • Series: The Returned, Prequel #2
  • ISBN 13: 9781299638013 ISBN 10: 1299638015
  • Categories: Science Fiction, Fantasy
  • Goodreads / Amazon / Kobo / HarlequinAU
  • Source: purchased (Kindle Freebie)

In this short story by Jason Mott, author of The Returned, one determined couple seeks to reunite a young girl with the father who thought he had lost her forever…

When Heather and Matt Campbell find ten-year-old Tatiana Rusesa on the side of the highway, she is thousands of miles away from her village in Sierra Leone. She hasn’t seen her family in almost two decades, not since she and her mother were killed by rebel soldiers. Now Tatiana has inexplicably returned, a lost orphan with no place to call home.

As the world dives deeper into uncertainty and chaos, Heather is determined to save Tatiana and help her find her way back to her family. But how much is she willing to lose to protect a girl she doesn’t even know?

I don’t know if I enjoyed The Sparrow as much as The First – I think it deals with weightier issues, and in such a short book, it feels disjointed and stilted. Whereas The First is about the very first person who comes back from the dead, The Sparrow deals with the darker side of the phenomenon.

When Heather and Matt find a little girl who’s been Returned, Matt is more interested in studying her – hoping to be the first person to crack their mysteries, than taking care of her. Heather just wants to reunite the girl with her parents, and the couple clash repeatedly. There are large gaps in time throughout the novella – a technique the author has obviously had to apply in order to tell the whole story in such a short space. However, this means that we don’t get to see the relationship between Tatiana and Heather grow, we just have to accept the author’s word that it happened.

Matt is such a jerk, and he infuriated me a lot! Which I think is great, because it can be difficult for authors to ensure their characters in their short stories make an impact. I think it’s safe to say that Jason Mott is a talented author! I’m really looking forward to reading the full length novel set in this world.

This novella, alongside The First, forms a gentle introduction into the world of The Returned, and is just enough to whet one’s appetite for the highly anticipated release. I know I can’t wait!

At the time of writing, The First and The Sparrow are available for free on all platforms, including Kindle and the Harlequin websites. There will be one more prequel novella, The Choice, released in August, before the September release of The Returned.

2 Comments

Venom by Fiona Paul

BloggingOutsideTheBox

Blogging Outside the Box is a  feature at Speculating on SpecFic, where books outside the SFF banner are reviewed. It is intended to highlight some of the non speculative fiction titles I am reading and share my thoughts with readers.

Cassandra Caravello is part of Venice′s wealthy elite. Her world is one of fabulous gowns, society parties and privilege, yet she longs for something more. While her fiancé is away studying in Paris, she has a chance meeting with an artist called Falco. He is attractive, audacious…and highly unsuitable.

When Cass stumbles upon the body of a murdered woman – with a bloody X carved across her heart – she′s drawn into a dangerous world of secret societies, courtesans and killers. Falco is quick to offer his assistance, but then another body is found and Cass starts receiving death threats… Is Falco more involved than she imagined? And will she be able to stay true to her fiancé, or succumb to her uncontrollable feelings for someone she′s not even sure she can trust?

It took me a long time – more than half way through the novel – to really get into Venom, and there was a time when I contemplated not finishing it. Something about Cassandra and her predicament refused to click with me, and I couldn’t see the so-called romance between her and Falco as anything but an overly contrived way of showing the choices Cass has to make in her life. But the story grew on me, as did the characters, and I ended up liking it in the end. I think this has a lot to do with Luca.

Cassandra is a noblewoman in Venice, who gets caught up in a murder mystery when the body of her recently deceased friend is replaced by that of a murder victim. She’s engaged to Luca, a boy she thinks of with disdain and faint horror, and is basically desperately searching for an adventure. Enter the artist Falco, who starts helping her uncover the mysterious deaths occurring in Venice, who provides just the distraction, and thrill of the forbidden, that Cass is looking for.

I couldn’t like Cass for so long throughout this book – she constantly complains of the ‘cage’ around her and the fact that her life is predetermined for her. However, she  readily escapes her home to accompany Falco on many late night adventures, and successfully pulls the wool over everyone’s eyes, so you’ll have to forgive me for not taking her seriously. Her dissatisfaction with her upcoming wedding also seemed forced to me – she never considers that the boy she hasn’t seen for three years may have grown into a man she could love and there’s very little discussion over whether she would have a choice in the match. Without ever coming out and saying she’d much rather not marry Luca, Cass assumes that everyone is hell-bent on forcing her to marry him, when it seems to me that this is far from the case. Everyone else assumes she’s happy because they have been friends since childhood, and Cass has never implied that she doesn’t want to marry him.

Her romance with Falco doesn’t make any sense to me. I recognise that he represents everything that Cass feels she doesn’t have in her life: danger, excitement, love, but there are too many creepy vibes coming off him for me to really believe that she could like him. He hangs around in graveyards, has no problem kissing and making out with her even though she’s engaged (although she has an equal choice in the matter and it doesn’t seem to bother her either), takes her to the most unsavoury places and leaves her unguarded, free to be groped by strangers, and yet, Cass still swoons over his eyes, smile, hands, other anatomy. It’s tragic.

What really turned this book around for me was Luca. Once he was back on the scene I was a goner. Far from the awkward, socially inept boy Cass had repeatedly described, Luca is a wonderful gentleman. And good-looking to boot. I kept waiting for Cass to see how amazing he is, and I think she got there in the end. Luca has his mysteries too, but I always felt he genuinely cared to Cass’s heath and wellbeing, and he is the only character in the book to ask her if she’s happy with their match. I am really looking forward to seeing him and Cass built a relationship in future books.

The murder mystery in itself is quite interesting, but there are too many players in it for my liking. There are still so many questions that have been left unanswered, but I liked the way the story was wrapped up. There are a lot of clues in this book, and it’s hard to keep track of which murder victim knew whom, and how all the suspects and victims were related, but I enjoyed this aspect of the novel all the same.

One of the major disappointments in the book is the general tone. I think the author has re-created the atmosphere of Venice quite well, but the way the characters talked felt off to me. There are many phrases and colloquialisms used in Venom that I feel are too modern-American for the setting of the book. I also disliked the smattering of Italian phrasing throughout the book. It seems wrong – supposedly the whole narrative is occurring in Italian, and we’re obviously reading it in English, but the way mi dispiace, molte scusi, mannaggia and other Italian phrases are incorporated into the novel is tiresome. I feel like they should have been excluded all together, rather than kept in as clumsy reminders that the action is occurring in a foreign landscape as they have the effect of cheapening the setting.

I ended up liking Venom quite a bit more than I’d first thought I would, and I am glad that I have the sequel, Belladonna, ready to read. I’ve been sucked into Cassandra, Luca and Falco’s lives, and I want to see them unravel the mysterious society that is the Order of the Eternal Rose.