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Melanie's Best Books of 2014


 Melanie's Best Books of 2014


Melanie's Best Books of 2014
Dawn's Early Light by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

I absolutely love the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series and Dawn's Early Light was another fantastic instalment in this series. My favourite agents - Books and Braun - find themselves across the pond and joining fellow agents from the Office of the Supernatural and Metaphysical to stop the dastardly Thomas Edison and the evil House of Usher. This book (and series) has the perfect balance of action, character development and steampunky coolness. I also have a secret crush on Books so enjoy everything and anything to do with my favourite hero. (See Melanie's Review here.)



Melanie's Best Books of 2014
Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter

Gemsigns was one of those big surprise books for me in 2014. I wasn't expecting to like it quite as much as I did. Saulter writes very convincing science fiction with likeable heroes and baddies who you aren't sure are going to get caught which makes it all the more gripping. This book is so well written and chapters that explain the 'science' are exceptional. It's hard to believe that this is Saulter's debut novel. (See Melanie's Review here.)




Melanie's Best Books of 2014
Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews

Magic Breaks is the 7th in the Kate Daniels series and Andrews made a very brave decision. The authors' change the format and make some very bold decisions for their characters. I have enjoyed this series and some books are stronger than others but this one stands out for me not just for how it is written but for what happens to the characters. Kate is one of my favourite heroines and can hardly wait to find out what happens next. (See Melanie's Review here.)





Melanie's Week in Review - October 26, 2014



Melanie's Week in Review - October 26, 2014


I am baaaaccccckkkkk. I may have to change the title of this to Melanie's Two Weeks in Review.  I hope you haven't missed me too much.  I went home to Canada and had a great Thanksgiving with my family and now back in the UK to a very mild October. I am not only recovering from jetlag but also the clocks going back.  I used to love the extra hour in bed but now I just lament hardly ever seeing the sun! Anyway, I digress.You are probably thinking you wish she would just get to what she read!

Melanie's Week in Review - October 26, 2014
I started my holiday with Binary by Stephanie Saulter which is the second book of the Gemsigns series.  Saulter was part of the Debut Author Challenge in May this year with her first book Gemsigns which I reviewed. I loved this first book and book 2 didn't disappoint. I will be writing a full review of Binary so I don't want to give too much away. I would advise you to start reading Gemsigns if you haven't already.

Melanie's Week in Review - October 26, 2014I decided that I needed quick and easy reads while I was on holiday so I popped over to NetGalley to see if they had any HEA for me to read. I found Light My Fire by G.A. Aiken. I have been reading the Dragon Kin novels despite them being a bit too 'erotica' for my liking. I found the first two or three novels (I started at the second novel About a Dragon) amusing and with enough humour I could forgive the non-stop sex. The further I get into the series the more I am getting a bit bored. I feel that Aiken needs to pair off almost every character in some 'stop it, I love it' tale. Light My Fire was set about 10 years after How to Drive a Dragon Crazy and tells the story of Celyn the Charming and the human Elina Shestokova from the Outer Plains. Celyn was your fairly typical drop dead gorgeous dragon who has something to prove and paired with Elina who I thought jumped out of From Russia with Love. Their love story was quite dull but I did enjoy the passages dedicated to Gwenvael and Dagmar who have featured in the last few novels. Normally, Aiken focuses the story from the female lead characters but even in the sub-plots there was much more male dominance in this instalment. I also thought that Aiken almost repeats the ending of book 5 in this book which made me wonder despite the wait, whether this one was a bit of a rush job.

Melanie's Week in Review - October 26, 2014
Book 2 from NetGalley was 'Til Dragons Do Us Part by Lorenda Christensen. I was hoping that this was going to be a 'feel good' read as I was going to read it during my flight back. I was glad this was a quick read as boy, it was boring. This is the story of of Savanagh, dragon shifter and art thief. One last heist may well be her very last of everything. Savanagh needs to steal a famous painting from a another dragon's horde but all her plans look like they are going to be foiled by the hunky head of security, Cameron.

The cover is definitely the best part of this book as the plot line was dull, dull, dull. Savanagh was just too good and caring to be considered a famous thief. Cameron was slightly more believable but only just slightly. It was pretty clear that he wasn't that good at his job as he totally missed the fact that a dragon shifter was posing as a wedding planner. I haven't read the other books in this series so perhaps they are better than this one but I don't think I will attempt to find out.

Melanie's Week in Review - October 26, 2014I will only tell you about one more book that I read on my return. My third NetGalley treat was The Palace Job by Patrick Weekes. I was super excited when I read that Patrick Weekes also writes for my 2 all time favourite video games - Mass Effect and Dragon Age. This first instalment of the Rogues of the Republic series brings together the 'dream team'. The baroness/ex-soldier/thief Loch assembles a motley crew to pull the biggest heist ever. She is determined to steal back the priceless elven manuscript from the man that killed her family and turned her into an outcast. Together with a unicorn, a death priestess, a talking war hammer, a magician and a boy with a mysterious birthmark Loch embarks on a journey to break into the most impregnable fortress ever - Heaven's Spire. 

This is a great read which I thoroughly enjoyed. Weekes has combined great characters, humour and adventure. There is also a smattering of romance for those of you who don't want to read about swashbucklers. In parts I felt like I was reading a script from Dragon's Age but as I love these games it wasn't a problem. Weekes really knows how to create great characters and ones  you want to spend more time with. I am really looking forward to what happens next. Also, I LOVE the cover!

That is it for me. I am sure to have more to tell you about next week as with the clocks going back I have a whole extra hour to read something new! Until next week Happy Reading.



2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2014 Debuts


It's time for the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars for May 2014


2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2014 Debuts


Each month you will be able to vote for your favorite cover from that month's debut novels. At the end of the year the 12 monthly winners will be pitted against each other to choose the 2014 Debut Novel Cover of the Year. Please note that a debut novel cover is eligible in the month in which the novel is released in the US. Cover artist/illustrator information is provided when we have it.

I'm using PollCode for this vote. After you the check the circle next to your favorite, click "Vote" to record your vote. If you'd like to see the real-time results click "View". This will take you to the PollCode site where you may see the results. If you want to come back to The Qwillery click "Back" and you will return to this page. Voting will end sometime on May 24, 2014.


Vote for your favorite May 2014 Debut Cover
  
pollcode.com free polls 




2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2014 Debuts




2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2014 Debuts




2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2014 Debuts




2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2014 Debuts




2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2014 Debuts




2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2014 Debuts




2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2014 Debuts




2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2014 Debuts



Release Day Review - Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter


Gemsigns
Author:  Stephanie Saulter
Series:  ®EVOLUTION 1
Publisher:  Jo Fletcher Books, May 6, 2014
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages
List Price:  $26.99 (print)
ISBN:   9781623651602 (print) (US Debut)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Release Day Review - Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter
Starburst magazine raved that Gemsigns, the first novel in a series, is “a fascinating and compelling read, exploring the boundaries of human behavior, religious influences, and the morality of the everyday person. It comes highly recommended.” For years the human race was under attack from a deadly Syndrome, but when a cure was found – in the form of genetically engineered human beings, Gems—the line between survival and ethics was radically altered. Now the Gems are fighting for their freedom, from the oppression of the companies that created them, and against the Norms who see them as slaves. And a conference at which Dr Eli Walker has been commissioned to present his findings on the Gems is the key to that freedom. But with the Gemtech companies fighting to keep the Gems enslaved, and the horrifying godgangs determined to rid the earth of these ‘unholy’ creations, the Gems are up against forces that may just be too powerful to oppose.


Melanie's Thoughts

The story starts with a community of genetically enhanced humans - aka Gems - who are trying to find their place in a 'norm' world. Humanity had been on the brink of extinction and in order to survive they developed a genetically distinct race who would effectively do all the jobs that they couldn't/wouldn't be able to do - mining, farming, manufacturing, surrogacy etc. The gems are controlled by large corporations who have everything to gain and nothing to lose by ruling this genetically modified offshoot of humanity. The story largely focuses on Eli Walker who is an anthropologist researching whether gems are really human. He is caught between the gorgeous, powerful Zavcka Klist, an executive working for one of the companies involved the creation of the gems, and equally beautiful but badly deformed gem, Ayral Morningstar. Tensions rise to a fever pitch as the ethical debate plays out. Its only a matter of time before the debate leads to violence and everything Eli thought he knew gets called into question.

Gemsigns could have been have been just another story of one race persecuting another but Saulter layers a number of themes to tell her story including fascism, slavery and religious fanaticism. The theme of whether genetically enhanced humans should be subjugated for their powers/abilities is not new. X-Men came to mind as I read this book. Saulter avoided mediocrity and adds a few twists to make the story unique and engaging.  She blended some relatively uncomfortable themes with great characters and excellent writing. There are parts of the book that are so eloquently written, those discussing the 'humanity' of the gems, that I felt like I was reading a thesis....an interesting thesis I might add. I found the first couple of pages a bit odd but as soon as it launched into the main story I was gripped and stayed that way until the end.

This is Saulter's debut novel and if it is an indication of her abilities then she is destined to have a great career as an author. This book is a winner in my humble opinion. I am also very lucky that I don't have to wait for book 2, Binary as it has already been released in the UK. Sorry to rub it in! Gemsigns is a great book and sets the stage for a great series.

2014 Debut Author Challenge - May 2014 Debuts


2014 Debut Author Challenge - May 2014 Debuts


There are 8 debuts for May. Please note that we use the publisher's publication date in the United States, not copyright dates or non-US publication dates.

The May debut authors and their novels are listed in alphabetical order by author (not book title or publication date). Take a good look at the covers. Voting for your favorite May cover for the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars will take place starting on May 15th.

If you are participating as a reader in the Challenge, please let us know in the comments what you are thinking of reading or email us at DAC.TheQwillery  @  gmail . com (remove the spaces).



Timothy Baker

Path of the Dead
Hungry Ghosts 1
Ragnarok Publications, May 5, 2014

2014 Debut Author Challenge - May 2014 Debuts

Nestled on the foot of Tibet’s sacred Seche La Mountain is the village of Dagzê. The normally quiet streets are bustling with the steady stream of arrivals and preparations for the coming Festival of the Medicine King; a time of celebration, healing, and renewal. But a shadow is sweeping the world, a plague of apocalyptic proportions—the dead are rising and devouring the living, and no place is safe where humanity thrives.

As Dagzê burns, overtaken by the hungry undead, five people come together: Lama Tenzin, an elder monk; Gu-lang, the silent warrior nun and Tenzin’s protector; Cheung, a private in The People’s Army, driver and escort of the Lama; ten-year-old Chodren Dawa, witness to his sister’s death and rising; and Dorje Cetan, a Shaolin-trained hermit monk of Seche La and a dreamer of a dark portent. Together they must fight their way out of Dagzê to an abandoned Buddhist hermitage clinging to the mist-shrouded cliffs of Seche La.

With the undead following and gathering at Eagle’s Nest gate, they barricade themselves inside their dead-end haven, and are soon forced to battle the beasts without, as well as the ones within.



Monica Byrne

The Girl in the Road
Crown, May 20, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

2014 Debut Author Challenge - May 2014 Debuts
Stunningly original and wildly inventive, The Girl in the Road melds the influences of Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, and Erin Morgenstern for a dazzling debut.

In a world where global power has shifted east and revolution is brewing, two women embark on vastly different journeys—each harrowing and urgent and wholly unexpected.

When Meena finds snakebites on her chest, her worst fears are realized: someone is after her and she must flee India. As she plots her exit, she learns of The Trail, an energy-harvesting bridge spanning the Arabian Sea that has become a refuge for itinerant vagabonds and loners on the run. This is her salvation. Slipping out in the cover of night, with a knapsack full of supplies including a pozit GPS system, a scroll reader, and a sealable waterproof pod, she sets off for Ethiopia, the place of her birth.

Meanwhile, Mariama, a young girl in Africa, is forced to flee her home. She joins up with a caravan of misfits heading across the Sahara. She is taken in by Yemaya, a beautiful and enigmatic woman who becomes her protector and confidante. They are trying to reach Addis Abba, Ethiopia, a metropolis swirling with radical politics and rich culture. But Mariama will find a city far different than she ever expected—romantic, turbulent, and dangerous.

As one heads east and the other west, Meena and Mariama’s fates are linked in ways that are mysterious and shocking to the core.

Written with stunning clarity, deep emotion, and a futuristic flair, The Girl in the Road is an artistic feat of the first order: vividly imagined, artfully told, and profoundly moving.



Tom Doyle

American Craftsmen
Tor Books, May 6, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

2014 Debut Author Challenge - May 2014 Debuts
In modern America, two soldiers will fight their way through the magical legacies of Poe and Hawthorne to destroy an undying evil—if they don’t kill each other first.

US Army Captain Dale Morton is a magician soldier—a “craftsman.” After a black-ops mission gone wrong, Dale is cursed by a Persian sorcerer and haunted by his good and evil ancestors. Major Michael Endicott, a Puritan craftsman, finds gruesome evidence that the evil Mortons, formerly led by the twins Roderick and Madeline, have returned, and that Dale might be one of them.

Dale uncovers treason in the Pentagon’s highest covert ranks. He hunts for his enemies before they can murder him and Scherie, a new friend who knows nothing of his magic.

Endicott pursues Dale, divided between his duty to capture a rogue soldier and his desire to protect Dale from his would-be assassins. They will discover that the demonic horrors that have corrupted American magic are not bound by family or even death itself.

In Tom Doyle's thrilling debut, American Craftsmen, Seal Team Six meets ancient magic--with the fate of the United States hanging in the balance . . .



Wu Ming-Yi

The Man with the Compound Eyes
Pantheon, May 20, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages
(US English-language debut)

2014 Debut Author Challenge - May 2014 Debuts
When a tsunami sends a massive island made entirely of trash crashing into the Taiwanese coast, two very different people—an outcast from a mythical island and a woman on the verge of suicide—are united in ways they never could have imagined. Here is the English-language debut of a new and exciting award-winning voice from Taiwan, who has written an “astonishing” novel (The Independent) that is at once fantasy, reality, and dystopian environmental saga.

Fifteen-year-old Atile’i—a native of Wayo Wayo, an island somewhere in the Pacific—has come of age. Following the custom of his people, he is set adrift as a sacrifice to the Sea God but, unlike those who have gone before him, Atile’i is determined to defy precedent and survive. His chances seem slim, but just as it appears that hope is lost, Atile’i comes across a sprawling trash vortex floating in the ocean and climbs onto it.

Meanwhile, on the east coast of Taiwan, Alice, a college professor, is overcome with grief. Her husband and son are missing, having disappeared while hiking in the mountains near their home. Alice is so distraught that she decides to end her own life. But her plans are interrupted by a violent storm that causes the trash vortex to collide with the Taiwanese coast, bringing Atile’i along with it. Alice and Atile’i subsequently form an unlikely friendship that helps each of them come to terms with what they have lost. Together they set out to uncover the mystery of Alice’s lost family, following their footsteps into the mountains. Intertwined with Alice and Atile’i’s story are the lives of others affected by the tsunami, from environmentalists to Taiwan’s indigenous peoples—and, of course, the mysterious man with the compound eyes.

A work of lyrical beauty that combines magical realism and environmental fable, The Man with the Compound Eyes is an incredible story about the bonds of family, the meaning of love, and the lasting effects of human destruction.



Laline Paull

The Bees
Ecco, May 6, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages

2014 Debut Author Challenge - May 2014 Debuts
The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Hunger Games in this brilliantly imagined debut set in an ancient culture where only the queen may breed and deformity means death.

Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, a member of the lowest caste in her orchard hive where work and sacrifice are the highest virtues and worship of the beloved Queen the only religion. But Flora is not like other bees. With circumstances threatening the hive’s survival, her curiosity is regarded as a dangerous flaw but her courage and strength are an asset. She is allowed to feed the newborns in the royal nursery and then to become a forager, flying alone and free to collect pollen. She also finds her way into the Queen’s inner sanctum, where she discovers mysteries about the hive that are both profound and ominous.

But when Flora breaks the most sacred law of all—daring to challenge the Queen’s fertility—enemies abound, from the fearsome fertility police who enforce the strict social hierarchy to the high priestesses jealously wedded to power. Her deepest instincts to serve and sacrifice are now overshadowed by an even deeper desire, a fierce maternal love that will bring her into conflict with her conscience, her heart, her society—and lead her to unthinkable deeds.

Thrilling, suspenseful and spectacularly imaginative, The Bees gives us a dazzling young heroine and will change forever the way you look at the world outside your window.



Stephanie Saulter

Gemsigns
®EVOLUTION 1
Jo Fletcher Books, May 6, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages
(US Debut)

2014 Debut Author Challenge - May 2014 Debuts
Starburst magazine raved that Gemsigns, the first novel in a series, is “a fascinating and compelling read, exploring the boundaries of human behavior, religious influences, and the morality of the everyday person. It comes highly recommended.”

For years the human race was under attack from a deadly Syndrome, but when a cure was found – in the form of genetically engineered human beings, Gems—the line between survival and ethics was radically altered. Now the Gems are fighting for their freedom, from the oppression of the companies that created them, and against the Norms who see them as slaves. And a conference at which Dr Eli Walker has been commissioned to present his findings on the Gems is the key to that freedom. But with the Gemtech companies fighting to keep the Gems enslaved, and the horrifying godgangs determined to rid the earth of these ‘unholy’ creations, the Gems are up against forces that may just be too powerful to oppose.



Rick Springfield

Magnificent Vibration
Touchstone, May 6, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 288 pages
(Fiction Debut)

2014 Debut Author Challenge - May 2014 Debuts
Why are we here? What is love? Is there a loch ness monster? Does God send text messages?

These are the kinds of questions Horatio Cotton, aka Bobby, asks in New York Times bestseller Rick Springfield’s debut novel, Magnificent Vibration.

After stealing a mysterious self-help book called Magnificent Vibration: Discover Your True Purpose from a bookstore, Bobby calls the 1-800 number scrawled inside the front cover, only to discover that he has a direct line to God. This launches Bobby on an unlikely quest, serendipitously accompanied by a breathtakingly sexy and exceedingly sharp travel companion named Alice. Together the pair sets out to find some combination of spiritual and carnal salvation—and possibly save the planet.

By turns hilarious, poignant, over-the-top, and deeply meaningful, Magnificent Vibration is a highly original novel about the biggest questions one man—or mankind—has ever asked.



Rachel Weaver

Point of Direction
Ig Publishing, May 13, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 232 pages

2014 Debut Author Challenge - May 2014 Debuts
Hitchhiking her way through Alaska, a young woman named Anna is picked up by Kyle, a fisherman. Anna and Kyle quickly fall for each other, as they are both adventurous, fiercely independent, and in love with the raw beauty and solitude of Alaska. To cement their relationship, they agree to become caretakers of a remote lighthouse perched on a small rock in the middle of a deep channel—a place that has been uninhabited since the last caretaker mysteriously disappeared two decades ago. What seems the perfect adventure for these two quickly unravels, as closely-held secrets pull them apart, and the surrounding waters threaten uncertain danger. A psychological thriller set against the rugged landscape of coastal Alaska, Point of Direction is an exquisite literary debut.



Melanie's Week in Review - April 13, 2014



Melanie's Week in Review - April 13, 2014


This was a rather unproductive reading week for me and I am not sure why as it seemed I always had my nose in a book. Due to my bad planning I did have to spend 2 tube journeys and 1 lunch finishing a baby blanket I was knitting for a friend of mine. This left with me with just under 8 hours of reading time when I normally enjoy closer to 12. So enough of my whining, what did I read?

Melanie's Week in Review - April 13, 2014
I started the week reading The Man from U.N.D.E.A.D -  The Curious Case of the Kidnapped Chemist by Darren Humphries. I can't remember where I got this book from but if it was a recommendation then I owe someone a big 'thank you'. If I found it myself then I need my arms stretched so that I can give myself a big pat on the back. I loved this book and thought it was hilarious. The book centred on Agent Ward from the United Nations Department for the Enforcement and Apprehension of Demons aka U.N.D.E.A.D. Agent Ward has been sent to investigate the disappearance of a young chemist with help from his incredibly lovely sister. A whole series of mishaps befall Agent Ward although with the company credit card with an unlimited limit the road to 'deadsville' might not be so bad. Humphries has excelled at mixing humour with a solid murder mystery. I think I was laughing from page 1 and that honour, so far, has only been bestowed on Ben Aaronovitch's Peter Grant / Rivers of London series. I thought I would give you a clue at how funny this book is by quoting a few lines. Feel free to clutch your stomach as the laughs abound.
"Discretion is my middle name" I assured him, "if it wasn't already Jason."
or
She was a portly woman, whose flowery dress reminded me of nothing so much as a summer's meadow not least because it possibly could have covered one.  The plunging neckline revealed a cleavage so deep that a whole team of potholders could have gotten themselves lost down there.  
Tee hee.  Writing these have me laughing again and going back to read more of my highlights. There are a few books in this series to enjoy so if you think this tickles your fancy then you can dig in to any number of the books of this series. I want to read more but need to get through some books on my TBR first.

Melanie's Week in Review - April 13, 2014
I almost had a panic attack when I saw the Gemsigns (by Stephanie Saulter) giveaway post and realised I had the book but hadn't read it. It went immediately on my NBR (Next Book to Read) list. I have to admit that I was a bit worried at page 2 that I wasn't going to like it. It felt a bit like Saulter got hold of a thesaurus and went to town but by page 3 it had turned a corner and I was engrossed from that point forward. You can read my full review closer to the US release date in May!

I need to get organised so that I make some progress on getting my TBR to something that looks manageable. Keep your fingers crossed for me. I have no excuses and plan to have more than just 2 books to share with you next week but until then Happy Reading.


Melanie's Best Books of 2014Melanie's Week in Review - October 26, 20142014 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - May 2014 DebutsInterview with Stephanie Saulter and Giveaway of Gemsigns! - May 7, 2014Release Day Review - Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter2014 Debut Author Challenge - May 2014 DebutsGiveaway: Gemsigns by Stephanie SaulterGiveaway: Gemsigns by Stephanie SaulterMelanie's Week in Review - April 13, 2014Giveaway: Gemsigns (®EVOLUTION  1) by Stephanie Saulter

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