When we think of Death as a character, we think of a dark being who steals lives, snatching souls from bodies and cutting away the strings of life. InWhen we think of Death as a character, we think of a dark being who steals lives, snatching souls from bodies and cutting away the strings of life. In Wings of Darkness, Asher (The Angel of Death) isn’t like that being though, and we discover that in the very first scene, when he saves Isabel, a feisty teenage girl, from a fate worse than death: becoming an immortal sorrow as her lost spirit wonders the Earth. Of course, nothing is ever that simple, though is it? As Asher binds her soul to her body, so he binds himself to her and when Death is bound to a mortal, things are bound to get exciting, right?
Absolutely right! This book was about as exciting as they get. The prologue entrapped me at once, although I was lucky to read it – the Kindle automatically opened at the first chapter, skipping the prologue, and if it wasn’t for my slightly obsessive desire to skip back and start at the actual cover, I would have missed the prologue completely. Silly Amazon and their seemingly arbitrary starting points but if you are a Kindle reader and unaware that material is sometimes missed in this way, take heed!
This book was recommended to me by a friend, but I was a little wary at first: YA fantasy, feisty teenage girl, immortal/mortal romance, and so on. It’s been done to death (no pun intended), hasn’t it? Well, yes, it has but that doesn’t make it necessarily bad, and it certainly doesn’t make each of its incarnations the same. There are clichés here, there are the usual tropes you’d find, a few stereotypes too. Isabel herself is one of these, in fact. Teenage girl, not popular but not particular unpopular either, one really good friend, Gwen – the tough one with the sassy mouth. Isabel is cool and quirky, strong-willed, more powerful than she knows and of course more beautiful too. That could describe any heroine of YA fantasy, couldn’t it? Despite that though, I can’t deny that by the end of the book, Izzy had become a real person to me. I went on her journey with her, and it captured me, even if her initial scenes were almost groan-worthily clichéd.
Not all of the characters were stock-ish either. Okay, so Asher as Death is dark, brooding, and handsome (as well as being millennia old – I’ve always found the age gap in these books a little odd) – if that isn’t a trope, I don’t know what is. But on top of that, Wingler has created a character who is different. Asher is a gentle and loving death, he cares about the passing of souls. Grim (Asher’s brother and seeming wingman), too, was a character I fell in love with, what with his ‘cheeky-chappy’ nature and quick mouth (in fact, if I had to pick one to be entangled in an immortal bind with, I’d probably pick Grim over Asher).
The other character that needs mentioning is Fate. The way that Wingler has handled Fate in this book is something I’ve never seen before, and she really got me thinking about fate in real terms. Is there fate? Should we fight against it? Can we fight against is? Is fate good or evil, or perhaps entirely neutral? And where does that leave free will? In fact, the book is peppered with philosophical nuggets, hiding away deep within the pleasant narrative. Like this one: “Humans were given free will, but as a species they are violent and lazy. They do far more harm than good. They are the greatest pestilence the world has ever known.” Or how about this one? “No death is ever black or white, good or evil. There are always shades of grey.”
The story is fast-paced (once it gets going), and it had me fully engaged. As I sat in the bath this afternoon reading the end of the book in rather cold and slightly stagnant water (I couldn’t get out until I’d finished, you see), I found my jaw dropping and my eyes popping with the action-packed crescendo to the novel. As I clicked away from the last page, I bought the second in the series immediately and that in itself should tell you all you need to know.
There are some massive clichés in this book, and it’s undeniable that the basic premise has been extremely popular in recent years, meaning that books like this one do not stand out as unique or different. It’s true that some of the characters are a little stock-characterish and the story begins a little slowly (with the exception of the prologue). Despite all that though, I am exhausted today because I stayed up half the night reading, and I’m a little chilly from sitting in a cold bath as Isabel and Asher’s tale grabbed me by the throat and kept me reading until I came to the end of their journey. The book is full of lovely descriptions, the story is action-packed, and the characters are emotive. There is even a bit of philosophy thrown in, and for all that, I can forgive the odd cliché!
This book takes off exactly where Wish For Me ended, and follows Glory, Irving, Madeleine, and Elena on their quest to find Rasputin and save their reThis book takes off exactly where Wish For Me ended, and follows Glory, Irving, Madeleine, and Elena on their quest to find Rasputin and save their realms from certain death. I really enjoyed the first book in this series (check out my review for more information), and whilst that makes the second in a series exciting, it also makes me a little nervous. Is it going to be as good? Is it going to be terrible and taint my opinion of the first? Is it going to be so awesome that I can’t handle it? Am I going to be disappointed to find that the third in the series is not out yet? In this instance, the truth is honestly a bit of a mixture.
It’s a great story, that’s for sure – or at least, it is so far (there is at least one more book to come). I read the book in two sittings (as I did with the first), and it kept me up well past my bed time, so there is no doubt that I enjoyed it. It was full of excitement and some great characters. I’ve fallen in love with Glory St. Pierre in a way that I hadn’t quite managed in the first book, and her character becomes much more rounded and realistic in Dream of Me. The book gives more depth to the other characters as well – Edwin and Karaman in particular, making the whole book more engaging and ultimately, more enjoyable.
It ends well too, leaving me with a gasp and a twinge of excitement. I’m disappointed that the third book isn’t available yet – I would have started reading it as soon as I finished this one. There isn’t a cliff-hanger as such, but the revelations that come to light at the end of this book are exciting and intriguing, meaning that I’m anxious to know what comes next. The book, too, is filled with the fantastic narrative and lovely descriptions that I’ve come to expect from A. Star, like this one: “we are all the offspring of fate”, and the whole book has that same steampunk feel of the first. The people and places are so easy to imagine that it’s almost as though the reader is on that airship with them, or watching the mechanical creatures on the hillsides of Shrinelyn and that, for me, is the sign of a great novel.
This short little instalment of the tale is as action-packed as the first, with plenty of twists and turns, plenty of adventure, and some great characters. However, it’s worth remembering that it is just that – an instalment. It doesn’t read like a book in itself but rather as part of a book, the middle section of a story arc that stretches over three volumes. Yes, the best trilogies have an over-riding story but each book should also have its own tale to make it seem complete. The Djinn Order books don’t and that’s a real shame. I honestly believe that the series would work better as one long novel – and assuming that third is going to be of a similar length to the first two, the books are short enough for this to work. Why they were written separately, I can only guess – financial gain, perhaps? An attempt at serialisation? Whatever the reason, Star would do better to bring them together into one volume rather than having them separate. As one, this book would shine in the way it truly deserves to, but as separate entities, they lose a little of that sparkle.
There were other things that disappointed me too. This book didn’t seem quite as polished as the first one, with the odd typo (entirely forgivable) or consistency errors (like the time when Glory hands her bag to the guard, only to put something into the very same bag just a few lines later). Or new things that are introduced, like one chapter written from Irving’s point-of-view near the end – odd-seeming because it’s something that hasn’t been done so far in either book. It felt as though the author didn’t know how to work that information into the narrative through Glory’s POV – which I understand, but it did pull me out of the story for a moment and that’s a shame.
What’s irritating most of all is that the things that frustrated me were so minor (apart from, perhaps, the fact that this is one novel stretched over three). It’s irritating because although these things made the book less polished or refined, it was otherwise great (and the first one too). They so deserve to be read and admired. As YA fantasy goes, it’s really unique, and that’s a challenge in such a huge market. A. Star is a fantastic writer, with a flair for great lines and punchy, action-packed story telling. She can pull a reader in, and although perhaps they took their time to truly shine, the characters are fantastic too. Does this book live up to the first in the series? I’m not sure, but it gives it a bloody good go and some elements definitely shone through. Will I read the third book? Absolutely, I just hope it’s not too long in coming. Would I recommend the series? Go for it, it’s a great story and will keep you plenty entertained – but here’s a little word of advice: be patient, the rest of the tale is on its way – even if you have got to buy three books to get it! ...more
When Glory St. Pierre finds an odd looking vase in her recently deceased grandmother’s basement, little did she know she was about to discover the exiWhen Glory St. Pierre finds an odd looking vase in her recently deceased grandmother’s basement, little did she know she was about to discover the existence of djinn, as well as a whole new world. This is where Irving comes into it, and grants Glory three wishes. There isn’t really much more I can say without giving too much of the story away. There is the djinn element, of course, plus a romance element (isn’t there always?), and plenty of action.
I’ve never before read any books based in djinn mythology, although as with all fantasy, I was intrigued. I’ve got to say, I wasn’t let down and the book made me want to delve into more djinn-type books. Wish for Me also has a strong steampunky type feel to it, what with all the goggles and tiny top hats, the clockwork and the steel, the fashion and even the attitudes to some degree. At first, I was really surprised. When the first automaton comes into the story, it didn’t seem to fit at all but I soon got comfortable with it and began to look forward to reading more of it. I don’t know whether djinn literature and steampunk often go hand in hand like that, but I really enjoyed that element of this book and it made me want to read more by A. Star (who, as a side note, is also Diantha Jones. I’m confused, but let’s just leave it at that).
The descriptions too were something to behold. When describing Shrinelyn (the djinn realm) especially, I was really able to picture the people, the places, and the all the clockwork and steel creations. Star has an excellent way with words when writing descriptions and if I had the chance to see the beauty of Shrinelyn for myself, I would most definitely jump at the chance! It’s a shame, it must be said, that Star’s way with words didn’t quite stretch to the rest of the narrative.
Written in first person narrative, the inner monologue of Glory was nowhere near as pleasant as the descriptions and was often a little crass. Glory as a character annoyed me, as did Irving in fact, and only good writing can make you feel so strongly for a character. However, it almost seemed as though the author couldn’t quite decide on which character she wanted Glory to be. Was she the cool, funky girl who swore and had casual sex because it’s fun? Was she the insecure girl who guards her heart closely and has casual sex to hide her pain? Was she the soppy, loved up romance novel type chick who swooned over the handsome man? In reality, she was all of these and actually, that would be fine, except these separate parts of one character weren’t melded together as well as they could have been.
The story as a whole was engrossing and I raced through the book to the end. For quite a short book, it packs a lot of punch. There are lots of twists and turns – some of which I guessed, some of which I didn’t – and there was enough suspense to keep wanting to read more. The excitement built to a great crescendo at the end but ultimately, I was left feeling disappointed. The story was not resolved and the book as a result seems unfinished. I do appreciate that there is a second book (which, luckily, I already have) but even in a series, I think the individual books need to have a complete story in order to be satisfying. One thing’s for sure though, I’m definitely going to be reading the second in the series, and right away too. That in itself tells you all you need to know. Moral of the story here: read this book, but make sure you have the next one on hand!...more
I love Margaret Atwood and her deliciously negative outlook on life. There is something quite exciting about her evident disappointment in the human rI love Margaret Atwood and her deliciously negative outlook on life. There is something quite exciting about her evident disappointment in the human race and the bleakness that she bleeds into her books. I don’t know why, perhaps it’s a fight against the enforced sickly sweetness of the world. The ‘let’s all be happy because everything is going to be alright’. Perhaps it’s that, or perhaps it’s just a delight to see something different for a change, to taste the sweet drops of the prohibited, the views you shouldn’t hold because where will negativity get you? Nowhere? Maybe though, just maybe, these brooding tales of woe are just what the doctor ordered when it comes to examining the ways we live and to stark warnings of what our future may behold – if we’re not careful, of course. Atwood is the queen of this, the queen of modern dystopia and this novel, The Heart Goes Last, is certainly no exception.
Stan and Charmaine live in their car. It wasn’t always like that. They had once had jobs they liked and a nice house but when the economy collapsed, so did their lives. All they were left with was their car, their love, and Charmaine’s job in the dingy bar, Pixeldust. When they see an advert for the Positron Project, then, it’s no surprise that they sign up. A nice house and a guaranteed job in the quaint, 1950s style town, Consilience? What’s not to love? Of course, every other month they have to go to Positron Prison whilst their ‘alternates’ (those who stay in the prison whilst they are out) live in their home, sleeping in their bed. Beats living in a car, that’s for sure. Of course, in typical Atwood style, all is not what it seems and that is where the fun begins.
This book is definitive Atwood. Or at least, it starts out that way. As a reader, you tumble into her dystopian vision and it’s great. The concept of Consilience and the project is fascinating and pulls you in straight away but as the story continues, the book almost flips into farce. It goes from dark and brooding to hysterically kitsch. It jumps from the deceptively quiet town of Consilience to the wilds of Las Vegas and whilst enjoyed my jaunt through Vegas with more than enough Elvises and Marilyns, filled as it was with humour and farcical action, it sort of tainted the beginning of the novel, which had promised an equally dark and brooding conclusion.
It seems to me that this book is a game of two halves and whilst both are enjoyable, they don’t seem to mesh tremendously well. Was it intended as black comedy throughout? Perhaps, though that wasn’t made clear at the outset. I can’t deny it made me giggle often (and out loud, too) but the ending almost made the beginning seem less than it was: less impressive, less serious, less of an issue. Only almost though, because actually, that stark warning we’ve come to love from dystopia, and that examination of our lives, is still evident, it’s still brooding, and it’s still a fascinating look at what we possibly have to look forward to. So what if the second half was funny? Who says that dystopia always needs to be depressing?
It doesn’t need to be depressing is the truth, and this novel shows that. It’s surprisingly light in tone for such an ominous dystopia, and surprisingly light for Atwood too. Perhaps she’d one too many sherries and was feeling giggly (disclaimer: I have absolutely no idea if Atwood drinks sherry, but for some reason, I sincerely hope she does). But do you know what? That makes it all the more special, that twist between the dark dystopia and the humorously human. And just to top it all off, there is also a bit of Atwood’s signature raunchiness – slightly peculiar and maybe even a little disturbing, but exciting all the same.
It’s an odd novel, this one. I raced through it (as I often do with Atwood), enjoying the way she makes the words dance on the page and thrilling in having a peek into her, dare I say? slightly twisted yet hugely impressive imagination. As a writer, she is an inspiration. As a reader, she is delectable. And whilst all the elements of this particular book didn’t quite mesh for me, it’s still a wonderful tale full of intrigue, menace, and just the right amount of humour. ...more
Ties That Bind is erotica. No, that’s not right. It’s a love story. No, that’s not quite right either. It’s an exciting drama complete with family feuTies That Bind is erotica. No, that’s not right. It’s a love story. No, that’s not quite right either. It’s an exciting drama complete with family feuds and a ‘will they-won’t they’ romance. Nope, not that either. Actually, it is that – it’s all of that, rolled up into a tightly wound and seamless ball of excitement and fun, with just the right amount of tension. It’s the story of Alex and the family she is trying to escape. It’s also the story of Alex and her new boyfriend, Gabriel. It’s also the story of Gabriel, his career, and his past. These threads are weaved as seamlessly in the book as they would be in life – all the individual aspects of these character’s lives bumping up against each other and merging into a single tree with many branches.
So we all know I hate romance (I’ve mentioned that once or twice, haven’t I?). It’s true. Romance stories irritate the bejesus out of me. I can’t help it, I’m just not one for cheese (unless it’s melted over chicken, or crisped up in the oven…mmmm…). One of the things I hate most about romance is that it is unrealistic (I know, I know, a fantasy author shouldn’t really give two hoots about realism but hey ho). I didn’t get that with Ties that Bind though. Don’t get me wrong, I was irritated by the romance but for an entirely different reason (because that’s just me). It wasn’t a lack of realism that got me but in fact, quite the opposite.
Let me explain. Rather than lamenting over how flat and two-dimensional the characters were (because they weren’t), I believed in them whole-heartedly. So much so that rather than rolling my eyes and groaning at the ridiculousness of it all, I actually wanted to get up and shake the characters. Alex in particular. She was so real to me that I wanted to get up from my seat and knock some sense into her.
“Don’t run away,” I wanted to scream (in fact I did scream, in my head at least) “talk to him!!” Because, you know, communication is key. Instead of becoming irritated by the romance, I was trying to think of ways to fix their problems (and, for that matter, ways to communicate my solutions to these characters on my page). So yeah, Chissick managed to get me involved in a love story – me, with my stone heart and my disdain for all things romantic. And for that, she has to be applauded.
As I mentioned before though, the romance, whilst being the predominant storyline of the book, is far from the only one and actually, it wasn’t the one that intrigued me the most. The story of Alex and her family had me gripped and I found myself craving for more of this tale. This thread introduced a whole new ‘will-they-won’t-they’ aspect to the book and the tension that it created was fantastic. As Alex did battle with a family she was desperate to escape, I was left guessing at what the outcome would be and the suspense that this created had me turning ‘just one more page’ (or rather, one more Kindle click). It was shame, I thought, that this storyline was not a stronger focus for the book but I understand why it wasn’t and as a book pipped as ‘erotic romance’, it’s unfair to complain when the main story is the romance!
The book itself jumps between points of view. For the most part, we read Alex’s story – and in first person, present tense. Occasionally though, Gabriel pops up to tell his own tale – and that is in third person, past tense. This, which could potentially be jarring and uncomfortable for the reader, is handled really well. The two are written in such sharp contrast to each other that it makes the change obvious and thus easier to understand. It prevents confusion and makes the distinction clear rather than blurred. And if I’m completely honest, it was done so well that I didn’t even realise it was happening until a good 50% into the book.
Finally, of course, no-one can review a book like this without mentioning the sex scenes. I was right when I said at the start of this review that this is not erotica. At least, it’s not out-and-out erotica. It’s not porn for the sake of it, and actually the sex scenes are fewer than I had supposed when I started out. The sex scenes, too, are not cringe-worthy, they’re not repetitive, they don’t use silly words in place of real words, they are not too drawn out or skipped over quickly. In fact, they are just right and they fit the book really well – they have their place, and they work. They turn the characters into fiery and passionate people and it gives them that extra little bit of realism. Of course, if you are of a sensitive nature when it comes to this sort of thing, perhaps this book is not for you. But also, if you are specifically looking for erotica, I’d say this book is not for you either. There are explicit scenes but there is so much more to this book than a few cheap thrills and the odd jolly. It’s not all willies and nipples. It’s a book of more substance than that, with a few nipples and willies thrown in – and that cannot be a bad thing!...more
Soul Saver by AM Maracle is difficult to sum up in a few lines. There is so much story in this story, but at an extremely basic level, it’s about a teSoul Saver by AM Maracle is difficult to sum up in a few lines. There is so much story in this story, but at an extremely basic level, it’s about a technology in the future that is supposed to bring the dead back to life (albeit in hologram form) but ends up doing quite the opposite. It’s set in the not-too-distant future, where technology is king and social class segregation is accepted as truth. It’s about betrayal and hurt, it’s about love and passion. There are four story lines that entwine to create a remarkably complex plot. In fact, it was a really hard story to pull off, but did Maracle manage it?
I wasn’t so sure at first. It’s quite a long book – or at least, it felt like that to me.
At 25% in, I was only just beginning to be intrigued, but once I was there, I was there with a vengeance! I wanted to know more about their technologies and their ways of life. The social structure of Maracle’s world is somewhat reminiscent of Huxley’s Brave New World or perhaps Atwood’s Oryx and Crake – a world in which the rich, tech-obsessed elite live in barricaded, isolated, highly protected environments (in this case the ‘Fences’) and the poor are left to scrabble in the dirt and dinge of the outskirts (the ‘Ditches’ here). The two worlds do not mix under any circumstances. What’s most frightening about that is this concept of segregation is it’s so close to being true, with the distance between the rich and poor growing ever wider.
The use of technology too, Maracle’s ‘omnis’ which track your ever move and near enough dictate your life, is so real that it could be happening right now. It’s easy to see how quickly we could descend into relying on that technology so easily. In fact, it’s started already with mobile phones fitted with GPS trackers and everything you could possibly need, from cameras to calendars. So the future that Maracle envisaged is, I believe, a fascinating commentary on where our current technology is leading us – and a stark warning to us all.
At 50% in, I started to get bored. The set-up was massive (and now, having finished the book, I completely understand why), but I was worried that it was going to become a drag, that I wasn’t going to finish the book. It seemed like the plot was going nowhere and I wasn’t sure whether I’d be getting to the end. But I was still intrigued by the world and where it was taking us, so I carried on.
At 75% in, I’d forgotten I was reading and was completely sucked in! It wasn’t until I reached the end and could breathe again that I realised what had happened and how engrossed in the book I had become. All the threads that had been so carefully laid were now showing their colours and beginning to twine. The twists and turns made my head twirl and there are some genuine surprises in the plot that had me gasping, and I felt genuine emotion for the characters that I had before thought nothing of.
In fact, the emotional element of this book is done remarkably well – until now, I’d never read a book that could make me feel so much sympathy for a child killer and for that, Maracle can only be applauded. Don’t get me wrong, the narrative never condones the act or implies that it’s acceptable but it does spend time exploring the reasons and the psychology behind it, and that was both fascinating and well done.
At 100% in, I needed to take a breath and take stock of what had happened. It ended with excitement and sorrow and joy all rolled into one, and Maracle’s use of an epilogue was a brilliant way of tying up the loose ends without making it look like she was putting a pretty bow on everything.
It’s true I had a little difficulty getting through the first 50% of this book and it’s true too, that the pacing of this novel could have been better – perhaps a little more of Foster’s history littered through the beginning chapters may have helped hook the reader and provide more balance. But more than this, it’s true that this book is a genuinely enjoyable read, full of action, full of twists and turns, full of emotion, and most of all, full of important social commentary. A good read, overall. ...more
As a general rule, I like to begin reviews with a brief summary of the story but to be honest, I’ve been sat here for a few moments now and I’m not quAs a general rule, I like to begin reviews with a brief summary of the story but to be honest, I’ve been sat here for a few moments now and I’m not quite sure where to start with this fast-paced and rather twisted plot. Simon Debovar, a typical rich hermit, awakes one day to hear his broken doorbell ringing and behind that door is a demon and an angel. They’ve come to retrieve his carpet, of course, and settle a bet. When Simon is asked to choose to whom he wants to give the carpet (that’s actually an ancient and intricate yet remarkably well-maintained rug), he is thrown into a wild adventure
The plot, as I mentioned, is fast-paced and full of so many twists and turns that it might as well be one of those twisty-turny brightly-coloured water slides you get at leisure centres and water parks. You know the ones – they make your head spin a little and you aren’t entirely sure where you are. Those ones. In fact, the plot is so complicated that I wonder whether Anderson himself can work it all out when he tries to think about it logically but – and here’s the big but that makes it all worth it – it works! It’s one of those typical farcical humours that throw you in so many directions and through so many doors that you don’t know whether you are coming or going but actually, in the end, it still all makes sense. Rather clever that, and definitely an enjoyably technique.
The characters, too, are fun. I enjoyed seeing the concepts of God and the Devil, Angels and Demons flipped on their head and the book provided a great take on these spiritual matters. It reminded me somewhat of Tom Holt and his godly characters, as well his quick wit and slightly twisted humour. It may cause offence to the deeply religious but to a self-confessed atheist such as myself, the satire was a hoot. As for the other characters: Harriet, Sean, Simon, Bob (and all the rest of them)…they were a bit of a mixed bag of nutcases (my favourite kind, of course). Simon, I found to be a little stock-characterish, reminding me somewhat of Hitchhiker’s Arthur Dent although not in any particularly memorable or fond way. Simon, in fact, is ultimately forgettable and entirely uninteresting. Faunt, on the other, was entirely believable (even given his propensity to become a deer – no, not dear, deer). In fact, I’d quite like a beer and a game of Yahtzee with him. Harriet too, is someone I’d love to go partying with.
One thing I did notice whilst reading (apart of the numerous formatting and typing errors that kept pulling me out of the story but yes – it’s a flaw we all have, and we and our editors are only human after all) – the one thing I did notice was that I didn’t really care. I enjoyed the book, I laughed out loud, I believed in the unbelievable characters, but I was never driven to get to the end to find out what happens and I didn’t care much for who died and who didn’t (although one death in particular did make me gasp). I never once thought “I’ve got to sit down and read some more” and it didn’t keep me up past my bedtime.
It’s rather a flat book actually – but almost in a good sense, if you know what I mean. There is little depth and I didn’t get emotionally involved and that has the potential to be a bad thing but sometimes, that’s what you want. My own books work on this idea that sometimes, people don’t want depth – they want something light and fun. In fact, that’s what most farce is, isn’t it? And this book definitely slots into the ‘farce’ category quite nicely. Besides, its one big saving grace is that it never proclaims to be anything but that. Right from the outset, you know this book is meant as a bit of fun and that is most definitely what it is.
One the thing I know for certain is that this book is not for everyone (although really, what book is?). If you’re looking for emotional depth, if you’re looking for hidden meanings, if perhaps you take religious satire offensively, then move on. If, however, you are looking for riotous humour and lots (and lots) of laughs, if you’re looking for bright and unusual characters with whom you’ll want to make friends, and if you’re looking for a trippy and twisty tale for a light and enjoyable read after a long day’s work, Carpet Diem is most definitely for you! From tiny giggles to full-frontal laughs, this book will have you guffawing all the way to bed – and that is never a bad thing! ...more
The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford is a psychological thriller with an unreliable narrator – in much the same vein as other, more famous releases thisThe Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford is a psychological thriller with an unreliable narrator – in much the same vein as other, more famous releases this year (The Girl on the Train coming instantly to mind, although it seems unfair to compare the two). Dana, the eponymous ‘pocket wife’ (a term explained in the book, and I shan’t ruin that here), wakes up one afternoon after a drunken row with her friend and neighbour, Celia. She soon discovers that Celia had been murdered that afternoon but Dana’s memory is sketchy at best. To make things worse, Dana is suffering from a mental breakdown and goes manic. The book flips between Dana’s madness and her drive to discover whether she is a murderer and Detective Moss’ investigation into Celia’s death – and there are a lot of suspects!
I love unreliable narrators – those that make me question everything and make my mind spin, and Dana was most definitely one of those. She even doubted herself. As in any ‘who dun it’, this book pulls you in and makes you ask who the murderer is, questioning each and every character in your head. When I had decided, definitively, that the murderer must be Dana, my mind would suddenly flip-flop and I would decide, definitively, that the murderer must be Ronald (Celia’s grieving husband). I did piece together all the clues and actually, I worked out who the murderer was before it was revealed, although it was only a few pages before and I don’t feel this ruined the reading. I rarely guess the ending to thrillers like this, and I felt a strange sense of pride. The clues to the solution, though they seem few and far between, must have been there for me to see.
What’s odd about this book though, is that it wasn’t particularly the murder case that interested me – although I was curious to a degree. It was Dana’s madness that got me hooked. As she descended further and further into chaos, so the pace of the prose increased and actually became increasingly poetic. As the pace of the prose increased, so did the pace of my reading and the pace at which my mind worked. I was dragged along and washed away, as though I’d accidently stepped into a fast-flowing river of words and thoughts and ideas. It was a torrent, and I liked it. It was almost as though I was experiencing the madness myself – the quickening heart, the confused thoughts, the racing mind, and Crawford’s ability to do that is impressive. Add that to her sometimes beautifully crafted lines and the poetic rhythm of her prose and you’ve got yourself a few fantastic chapters.
It wasn’t all good though. Once the murderer was revealed, I became a little frustrated to be honest. Whilst the book had been full of switching and swapping of ideas and points of view, of fast-paced unreliability, the ending became a neat swirl of icing with a cherry on top or a nicely wrapped parcel with a bow. It was all summed up, nice and neatly, and didn’t leave anything really to the imagination. And of course, Crawford managed to squeeze in a little love story too (and I’m sure by now that you know how I feel about that!). It was as though once the murderer was revealed and once Dana’s madness died down, there was nothing left to keep me going. I didn’t really care about the ‘how’s and ‘why’s of it all, and I wasn’t really bothered about the future of the characters. They had told their story, and that was enough for me. I became bored and found myself skimming through the last of it and that, I’m afraid to say, was a disappointing end to an otherwise enjoyable read.
So there it is – an ultimately disappointing ending. I can’t deny, though, that the process reading this book was enjoyable and actually, it kept me up well past my bedtime over the three nights that I read it. I would read more of Crawford’s, if just for her wonderful way with words and the great way in which she paces the narrative – I’ll just hope for a slightly better ending next time....more
DEiFIED by Justin Dillon-Shallard is set in a future in which virtual reality is a…er…reality! The book follows two stories: a story set in the real wDEiFIED by Justin Dillon-Shallard is set in a future in which virtual reality is a…er…reality! The book follows two stories: a story set in the real world and story set in a VR gaming world, The Third Realm. As the book continues, the two stories entwine and the reader discovers just how dangerous online gaming can be and how it can cross easily into real-life. It’s undoubtedly science fiction but with a touch of fantasy and a drop of thriller thrown into the mix. Imagine that with a black-ops military team, hard-core gamers, and a small-but-still-there side-order love story and you’re about there with DEiFIED. It’s got a bit of everything, and that’s not always a great thing to have.
This book is trying to be a lot of things and the question of whether it manages it is a good one. The phrase ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ may come to mind. Actually though, that phrase is one that most definitely cannot be applied to this book, because it is masterful and Dillon-Shallard manages to wind the genres together seamlessly – quite a clever talent that. Having said that, whilst it may be a bit of everything to everyone, it is worth noting that if you don’t really like sci-fi, this probably isn’t the book for you.
Speaking of which, the sci-fi elements were done really well. The novel is not set too far into the future to be completely unrelatable and the developments in technology weren’t so outlandish to be not believable. In fact, I could easily see how the world we live in today could become the world of DEiFIED. What makes it all the more credible is how well world politics is dealt with. For the first half of the book at least, each chapter is prefixed with a paragraph about a particular country’s world standing and/or governmental control. There’s consistency and authority in the infrastructure of the world that Dillon-Shallard has created and that, in itself, is something to be in awe of. I have an image of an author so ingrained in his own-built political system that he has a basement (or better yet, an old bunker) littered with notes that are linked with strings and pins, with red circles and different coloured highlighters. Okay, so that might be a bit far-fetched (a girl can dream…) but in reality, the depth and consistency with which Dillon-Shallard has created his infrastructure can only possibly point to excellent note-taking or an awesome memory!
I did wonder, though, for at least the first third or so of the book, whether his own detailed knowledge of his world led him to forget that actually, the reader is coming to it with complete ignorance. It took me a good while to work out what was going on and with the introduction of all the different characters, I’ll admit I was a little blind-sided for a bit. It didn’t help that each character was actually two (or should I say that each pair of characters were actually one? See, I’m even confused now)! What I mean is that for every character, there was the person they were in the real world and then a whole new persona for them in the game – with different names, different looks, and different skill-sets. That can take some getting used to but the good news is, you do get used to it and ultimately, to write the characters in any other way would have been unrealistic. That’s what people often do, after all, when playing online. They create a new life for themselves. Once you get used to it, it’s great too because it creates a whole extra dimension in the novel and adds to what I shall now always refer to as that Dillon-Shallard Depth!
The story, too, was a little confusing if I’m honest. I’m still not entirely sure that I fully understand what happened (although I think I’ve worked it all out now, and there is good chance I was just having one long brain fart). There are lots of twists and turns and revelations that make for an exciting tale but my brain just couldn’t cope! That didn’t make me dislike the book though. Quite the opposite in fact – I relished the challenge and along with the great writing, the fantastic characters, and the roller-coaster ride, a bit of confusion was worth the effort.
It’s true that this is a complex novel but actually, the story was engrossing, the writing was peppered with humour and emotion throughout, and the characters felt real to me (even the fictional fictional ones – the gaming personas!) Dillon-Shallard has an amazing ability to create tension, at least one of the twists made me gasp aloud (to the surprise of my dog), and DEiFIED includes one of the best battle scenes I think I’ve ever read. I was genuinely rooting for one team over another and I felt their rousing spirit (not a great way to get yourself off to sleep, I can tell you now). It was one of those books that I was desperate to finish so that I could find out what happens, yet I was desperate not to finish so that it would carry on for longer but that’s okay, because I’m on my way to Amazon right now to download the next in the series!...more
Dreams of Beautiful Whisper by Tanya Jones is about Amanda, a young girl soon to turn 16 (along with all the trials and tribulations that that brings,Dreams of Beautiful Whisper by Tanya Jones is about Amanda, a young girl soon to turn 16 (along with all the trials and tribulations that that brings, like parents who do weird and embarrassing things). At least, that’s how it starts out but soon things change for Amanda. When her family suddenly up-sticks and move to a mysterious village, Amanda discovers that her real is name Amanae, that she is an elf, and that she has powers that she couldn’t even begin to imagine… (Oh, and as a side note: if you are somewhat irritated by the lack of the ‘a’ in the title as I was, the reasoning becomes apparent near the end of the book and once you understand, all will be forgiven!)
The beginning of this book is not great. The writing is loose and bland, as though the author hadn’t re-worked this section in her edits and re-writes. There are a few jumps between past and present tense that are irritating. The narrative jumps from scene to scene with no break or distinction (actually, this happens throughout the entire book – but you get used to it). The characters are weak and uninteresting – I really couldn’t care less about Amanda; even her name irritated me. My Kindle is riddled with comments for the first few chapters. Something must have sparkled through all that though, something buried deep in the back that shone through, because I stuck with it…and boy am I glad that I did!
Once the family move back to the village of their past, the story comes alive. Suddenly there is light and colour and sparkle and the juxtaposition between this and the first part of the book reminded me of The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy left the drab, grey Kansas and landed in technicoloured Oz. I went from wishing that something would happen in the story to being swept away by the pace of the action. I went from wishing that Amanda would fall down a drain to falling in love with Amanae. I went from being irritated by a name to adoring a name! I went from stopping every few minutes to note a comment to completely forgetting I was reading and being wholly immersed in the story. In fact, I didn’t make another note until right at the end of the book.
If this distinction between the first part of the book and remainder was an intentional way of showing the distinction between Amanda and Amanae, it’s a very clever technique – but it’s also a dangerous one. If you, as a reader, are stuck trying to get past the first few chapters of Dreams of Beautiful Whisper, stick at it – it will surprise you.
The story of Amanae is gripping and the concept of a young elf who doesn’t know she’s an elf, and who has to develop her Elvin skills in such a short amount of time, is a fascinating one. It’s a new and interesting way of writing about elves that kept me entertained throughout and although characterised as a ‘YA Romance’, for me, the romance is far from the best part of the book. Amanae as a character really comes out of herself, making this book as much a ‘coming of age’ tale as anything else and watching Amanae grow is heart-warming.
Speaking of the romance though, (and as most of you know, I hate romance), it’s done really well. It isn’t thrown in your face and is not sickly sweet – although the whole love triangle thing between Jordan, Amanae, and Caelsah, is a little strange to say the least. As a general hater of romance, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself rooting for Caelsah and Amanae.
No, this book is not without problems. You’ve got to stick with it to find the magic within, it’s at times jumpy and leaps through time with no notice, and the dialogue is sometimes stifled and not lifelike. I didn’t highlight any phrases for their beauty or smile at striking narrative, but actually, it doesn’t need any of that because of how deeply immersed in the story you become, and how much you begin to believe in Amanae, in Caelsah, in the village, as real people and places. And it left me with one overwhelming feeling that will tell you all you need to know: I was desperate to start reading the second book in the series, and I’ve struggled to start reading anything else since as I miss Amanae already.
Oh, and mum, if you’re reading this, I am ready. You can reveal my true elvin nature whenever you want. ...more
Scandari Saga is an exciting adventure that crosses time and space quite spectacularly. Tom Scandari, our intrepid hero, is on the edge of a great disScandari Saga is an exciting adventure that crosses time and space quite spectacularly. Tom Scandari, our intrepid hero, is on the edge of a great discovery – and no doubt, a great story for the newspaper he works for. As he investigates his case, he discovers something that even he can’t quite believe. It is, and I quote, a “thingamabob-widget-sphere-thingy”. His discovery leads him down a dangerous path of crime fighting, avoiding assassins, and time travel. What more could you want?
If you’re looking for a straight-up sci-fi novel, this definitely isn’t for you. The sci-fi element, although imperative to the story, is far from the central focus and this, I find refreshing. It’s not an all-singing, all-dancing, ‘I’m a sci-fi’ screaming firework, which actually makes the sci-fi element all the more believable – even if the main characters can’t quite believe it! In fact, the story reads much more like a detective mystery – certainly at the beginning, at least. The time travel itself plays such a small part and the narrative itself focusses on what Scandari will find and how the ‘baddie’ is going to be beaten. The story is gripping and I raced through the pleasantly short chapters, eager to find out how the adventure would end.
The characters, whilst endearing, are occasionally stock-characterish. Tom is a typical hero, daring and dashing, with the right amount of humour mixed in. Vorster is the universal bad-guy. This, in itself, is not a bad thing though. The stock-characterishness actually fitted the story and I can see the potential, certainly in Tom, to be developed throughout the rest of the series. Annie appeared in the book significantly less than I was expecting after reading the blurb but again, I’d be excited to see more of her in future books. Possibly one of my favourite characters featured the least – Zoey, or Zoyenka, is a fantastic character and I crave to know her backstory/see more about the way she lives her life, but alas, that may not be possible…
The book is littered with humour, and I’m not going to lie: I love me some humour – even in the most serious of books. Right down to the most tense moments and most exciting cliff-hangers, Roderick makes the reader laugh yet manages to succeed in not destroying the feel of the particular moment. With a car called Mildred and a hero who hums spy tunes whilst breaking and entering, the light humour that is sprinkled throughout the book makes for a pleasant read.
It’s not all rainbows and starlight (never is, is it?), although the problems I found were small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things (and, you know, traveling across time and space is pretty grand, ain’t it?). I was confused by some words until I worked out that they were South African slang (more a statement of my cultural ignorance than anything else, I suppose) but once I worked out what it was, it added a certain degree of authenticity to the dialogue. Also, every scene is linked with street names and route directions throughout Johannesburg – which for some, perhaps, will help to create a clear image and add some realism but for me, I found stalled the story at awkward moments. Finally, the chapters all begin talking about ‘him’ and what ‘he’ did and for each chapter, it took me a paragraph or two to work out exactly which ‘he’ that ‘he’ was (it’s a good job that I don’t get my ‘he’s mixed up in real life – my beloved would go bananas).
But do you know what? For a book with an impressive 121 chapters that kept me up far passed my bedtime on more than one occasion, a few little issues are nothing. With a great story, loveable characters, and some pretty awesome bonus material, Scandari Saga will have you clicking your heels and sucking your teeth with impatience as you wait for your next instalment. ...more
The third in the epic trilogy, and the book I've been waiting patiently to read for weeks now, End of Days picks up right where World After left us, aThe third in the epic trilogy, and the book I've been waiting patiently to read for weeks now, End of Days picks up right where World After left us, and follows Penryn, Raffe, and the others right to the end - of their story and my tense anticipation!
Let's be honest, there is no shortage of books about teenage girls falling in love with other-worldly beings at the moment (be it vampires, angels, or whatever). There is no shortage, either, of post-apocalyptic or dystopian novels. So the question, when reviewing Susan Ee's trilogy, is whether it stood up against the already saturated market?
Well in many ways, yes it did.
Despite the cheesy love story (which I decided to ignore in lieu of the rest of the story), this trilogy is littered with original and highly imaginative plots and sub-plots, and characters that I've certainly never met anywhere else. Okay, so Penryn and Raffe might be a little bit 'stock cardboard cutout' - redone renditions of over-cooked characters, but Uriel and Josiah, Paige and the locusts, Doc and Laylah, even Penryn's mothers, are all new-found, standing up in their own right and create a shine to the novels that perhaps our protagonists alone cannot create. The wealth of fully formed, individual, interesting, and even exciting characters was a joy, and perhaps one of the main reasons that I was so hooked on this series.
The plot, too, is of course one that we've all encountered before - there are swathes of post-apocalyptic novels, of stories about the fighting under-dogs and the one tough cookie who leads them, of coming-of-age books where shy and self-doubting teenagers lead groups of gibbering wrecks to victory. Yes, we've all encountered them before, but none of them have been quite like this. The main story arc might not be anything new, but the path the Ee chooses to get us from the beginning to the end is original, exciting, and so darkly imaginative that I can't help but be a little worried for the author's state of mind. I mean - where does such darkness come from? At least, I hope, we can be happy that Ee has decided to unleash her darkness through a bunch of fantastic writings instead of through science and the real-life production of such monsters!
I can't help but compare this book to The Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor. Angels, fighting, war, teenage protagonists with unusual upbringings, a secret and forbidden love. There are most definitely similarities but if I'm honest, I don't think Penryn and co quite match the tour de force that is DOSAB. Whilst Angelfall is definitely darker, and perhaps even more original - or at least more imaginative, DOSAB is deeper, more involving, more all-encompassing. Karou and crew will live with me forever, whereas I'm not entirely sure that Penryn will - although I admit, I've sometimes been wrong about books I've assumed I'd forget. Only time will tell.
The fact that the tale was split into three books was unnecessary, in my eyes. None were particularly long, although the serialisation did give that added tension and anticipation, that "I just can't wait to start the next book" feeling that looms so much larger than the "just one more chapter" race to the finish line. As for this book in particular, it seemed a little more rushed than the others, not quite as polished, as though Ee was as eager and excited to get to the end as the rest of us. That said, I enjoyed it as much as I did the previous books and it gave a really satisfying conclusion to the whole story. It was one that I was happy with and one that provided me with a decent sense of closure but still open enough to leave questions about what happens next - and the hope that Ee will give us another glimpse into Penryn's world some time in the future. ...more
Seventeen year old Saira Elian’s mother has gone missing – again. But this time, she doesn’t come back and Saira has to go looking for her. It’s durinSeventeen year old Saira Elian’s mother has gone missing – again. But this time, she doesn’t come back and Saira has to go looking for her. It’s during this time that she learns about the Immortals: Time, Fate, Death, Nature, and War and about their descendants. She discovers that she is actually a Descendant of Time and that she can move between centuries, effectively making her a time traveller. In this, the first of three books, Saira takes us on a journey through Victorian England, when/where she falls in love, fights vampires, meets Jack the Ripper, and races against time to rescue her mother.
I’ve read a lot of books like this lately: teenage girl, whose mother has gone awol (or is bonkers, or is hiding something from her, and so on), who has secret powers lying dormant and ready to be discovered, who starts at a magnificent school full of magic and wonder and a whole new world. In fact, there is an awful lot of young adult fiction out now with this basic premise and it’s really difficult for authors to stand out amongst the crowd. So with this in mind, does Marking Time manage it?
The answer would have to be yes…and no! There is absolutely no denying that there are a lot of similarities between this book and the current fashion for young adult fiction – in fact, all and a bit more of what I’ve already mentioned. Saira had no friends, never been special, felt alone all her life but through the book, all that changes. Saira is extremely powerful, beyond what anyone expected. It’s all been done, and none of it exceeded or even differed from my expectations.
Of course, that doesn’t make it bad. Fashions are fashionable for a reason and I can’t deny, the young adult fantasy fashion is one that I adore. The reason that I’ve read lots of books like this is because…wait for it…I actually enjoy reading them and Marking Time was no different. I may have already had a fair idea of the basics of what would happen to Saira but I still enjoyed going along for the ride, discovering how she would get there and meeting the wonderful characters she would interact with on her way. I loved St. Brigids School for Immortal Descendants and Mr Shaw in particular. If I could find a way to attend his botany class, I undoubtedly would (and if anyone knows of a way, please let me know in the comments box below).
There are some things that mark Marking Time in time (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun), there are things that make the book stand out amongst the crowd. April White takes us on a journey through history and her historical knowledge is fantastic. Although a little confusing at points (but only when the times are close together – at one point, I wasn’t sure whether we were in 1861 or 1888), Saira’s journey actually takes you to Victorian England – yes, you’re actually there (well, maybe not actually, but it certainly feels like it). In this respect, White has comprehensively combined YA fantasy with historical fiction in a way that I’ve never seen before and looking at the blurbs of the next few books, this is set to continue. I am looking forward to stepping into England in 1554 and Paris in 1429 – and that’s something I never thought I’d say!
What’s also great is the detail that White puts into the science behind the Immortal Descendants. It makes sense that in the modern world, the descendants would want to look at their history and genetics, in much the same way that us poor ‘ungifteds’ do with our own. White has created a genetic history that is believable and adds an element of consistency and realism to what is otherwise a rather crazy twist on the real world. I hope this continues through the next two books and in fact, I’d like it to go into further detail.
Like all books, there were problems. I love to read dialogue written in dialect but in this book, the dialect fails. As a Welsh person, Sanda’s Welsh accent failed to come across and the Cockney accents didn’t sit quite well either (in fact, they were written almost the same). Once I’d accepted and ignored this, it was easy to overcome though. Another thing that bugged me was age – whilst I knew Saira’s age, she came across as anything between 14 and 30, and although Archer is described as a student, I couldn’t even begin to imagine his age (although his beautiful face is quite a picture in my mind!)
I can’t help in thinking that, all in all, Marking Time is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s an enjoyable read but it didn’t blow me away. I’m not grasping for the next book with the same desperation that I have with previous trilogies but I will most definitely continue to read the series. I do admire White for her ability to merge two of my favourite genres: fantasy and historical fiction, and for her ability to make Victorian England come alive. And ultimately, we read for entertainment and I can’t deny that Marking Time entertained me for a good few hours, so what more can you ask for?...more
A fitting (and somewhat predictable) ending to a fantastic trilogy, full of excitement, tension, and plenty of twists and turns. Although there is noA fitting (and somewhat predictable) ending to a fantastic trilogy, full of excitement, tension, and plenty of twists and turns. Although there is no great twist in the story to end it, Dust is a satisfying conclusion to the fast-paced tales of Wool and Shift, and it was great to see some closure for the characters that we've loved (and in some cases hated) for three long books.
The trilogy comes highly recommended to lovers of dystopian fiction or exciting stories alike. ...more
Well, definitely a page turner - a quick, enjoyable read. But is it just me or is there not a single normal, sane, down-to-earth character in this booWell, definitely a page turner - a quick, enjoyable read. But is it just me or is there not a single normal, sane, down-to-earth character in this book? All the women were needy, weak, and a little bit crazy - obsessed with babies and men (okay, the ending gives them a good reason for this but even so...). All the men were jealous, abusive, and somewhat violent. The random red-haired dude on the train seemed like the only normal one to me.
Of course, not liking the characters doesn't mean I didn't like the book (although it did frustrate me, and I did find them all a bit similar). I guessed the end before it happened, but not too far ahead that it ruined the book for me - and I always doubt myself when I guess anyway. The ending worked for me - (view spoiler)[ if it had turned out to be Scott or Kamal, I think it would have been too obvious and too bland. I did have a vague notion that it might have been the red-haired dude for a moment there, but it didn't last long! (hide spoiler)]
The writing was good enough that I didn't notice it but not spectacular enough for me to highlight anything. The plot was fun and intriguing, keeping me entertained throughout. Overall, a book that I enjoyed but one that I'm not sure I would recommend with any great fervour, and I'm not entirely sure that I understand all the hype. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Mildly amusing, and somewhat enjoyable, although it seems Mr Lodge couldn't decide whether he wanted to write a novel or an academic essay, occasionalMildly amusing, and somewhat enjoyable, although it seems Mr Lodge couldn't decide whether he wanted to write a novel or an academic essay, occasionally slipping into dry lecture mode. It was nice to read a book about the difficulties faced by the hard of hearing, and I could definitely relate to Desmond - especially in the party scenes. I share his frustrations, although perhaps he needs to learn to laugh at himself a little more, and then he wouldn't be so 'humiliated'.
As much as I enjoyed this novel, I'm not sure I would have had the same reaction had I not been hard of hearing. ...more