There has been so much buzz about this trilogy on the book blogosphere that I couldn't resist picking it up. But lik...moreReviewed for www.bookchickcity.com
There has been so much buzz about this trilogy on the book blogosphere that I couldn't resist picking it up. But like anything that gets lots of positive press, I was slightly nervous when I began listening to the audiobooks in case I didn't love them as much as everyone else. I needn't have worried!
The entire trilogy is narrated by Carolyn McCormick, who is a superb narrator. She really encapsulates Katniss's essence, the pace and the highs, lows and horrors of the story. I was sucked in and wrung dry through each book, barely able to press the pause button on my iPod.
Set in the future, 'The Hunger Games' is a fantastically compelling and dark dystopian novel. It tells the story of Katniss, a young woman who lives in district twelve of the poorest districts in the country, where many people suffer from hunger. Katniss helps feed her family by poaching daily in the local forest with her best friend Gale & selling any excess game on the black market.
This new world is brutal and cruel, ruled by the unscrupulous Capitol. Years ago the districts rebelled and the Capitol will never let it be forgotten. As a punishment, each year two children from each district, one boy and one girl aged between 12 and 18, are selected to enter 'The Hunger Games', a violent reality show where the children must fight to the death until one child remains.
Each year the town people pray it is not their child that is selected. Then the unthinkable happens, Katniss's little twelve year old sister gets selected for the games. Katniss has spent her whole life protecting her little sister and does the only thing she can think of and volunteers to go in her place.
Believing she is sentencing herself to a death sentence, the book tells of Katniss's journey leading up to and of the games itself. The tone shifts itself between unbearably painful, to shockingly violent and then to desperately sad. The narrative is written so well, you become fully submerged into Katniss's story willing her to survive after every shocking incident. Like her, you begin thinking she cannot survive, to daring to believe with her poaching skills maybe, just maybe she might be a contender.
Katniss is one of those heroines you cannot help but admire. She is vulnerable yet tough, naive, but at the same time intelligent and a fast and strategic thinker. The book does contain a slightly unexpected, and at times awkward love story. But it adds a really great twist the games itself.
There is one scene worth a special mention, not want wanting to spoil it, I shall say look out for the scene with the singing and flowers. You will know it when you reach it. If you manage to remain dry eyed, you are a tougher person than I!
This novel is also as much about social commentary as it is a fantastic story. It highlights current issues with popularity of celebrity and our fascination with the shallow and unimportant. It is perhaps at its darkest when it focuses not on the contestants of the games, but the shallowness of the people who organise it. The shock of the frivolous behaviour we see from the TV presenters as they gush over the contestants like they are the luckiest new celebrity in town, combined with such a macabre subject is ironic writing at its best. You can't help but see the inevitable comparisons it draws between 'The Hunger Games' and the plethora of reality TV shows that are on our screens everyday.
But also, there was something about this book that had a ring of George Orwell's '1984' for me. The dystopian setting, the ghastly government messages and the control and subjugation of people, society broken into tasks and regions. The terrible fear of what would happen to you if you voiced a criticism against 'The Capitol'.
A really stunning novel that I cannot help but implore you to read. It's excellent, and is one of those stories that sucks you in, churns you up and leaves you gasping for more. Don't let the dark premise put you off, yes it's gory and shocking at times and does involve children killing one another, but trust me when I say it's written very well, and is not gratuitous at all.(less)
'I am Legend' is as much a psychological novel as a horror one. Robert Neville is the last surviving human of an apocalyptic plague that has turned ma...more'I am Legend' is as much a psychological novel as a horror one. Robert Neville is the last surviving human of an apocalyptic plague that has turned mankind into vampiric zombies. Written in the 1950s, it is as relevant to a modern day reader as it was fifty years ago.
Slow moving at first, the book focuses on Robert's every day plight for survival. The hum drum routine of foraging for food and supplies, to the horrific night time isolation when the vampires come calling for him.
But it soon becomes evident when the horror of the vampires has passed, it is the loneliness, lack of focus, routine and looking forward into a future of nothingness that terrifies Robert more.
We watch Robert crash between alcoholism and insanity through frenzied internal dialogues as life begins to no longer hold any meaning to him. Yet, a survivor to the core it is not in him to end his existence. But, when life no longer holds any meaning, how do you go on?
The writing is extremely intelligent, the prose detailed and poignantly descriptive. The narrative rises and falls in unnerving crescendos, propelling the reader through Robert's desperate highs and lows.
The ending was a surprise and eminently unpredictable and oh so very clever at the same time. It might sound like a cliche, but this is a book that will keep you thinking well after you have turned the final page. (less)
**Warning contains spoilers for first book in the series**
As the winners of The Hunger Games, you would think that Katniss and Peeta's lives would be simple now. With more money than they could ever need, never having to worry about themselves or their families being hungry again. The only tedium being the celebrity interviews they are required to attend. But of course life will never be that simple for Katniss. Unwittingly Katniss's act of defiance at the end of 'The Hunger Games' has led her to become a symbol of the rebellion that is rapidly growing in strength. The ruthless President Snow cannot allow this to happen. In fact, he will manipulate Katniss into doing just about anything and threaten all those dear to her to save the his reign and the lives of the people in The Capitol.
This first half of this book spent a long time building the story and the complexity of the plot. But a little bit too much time for my liking was spent on the awkward love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gayle. This trilogy for me isn't about the love story, but the stark dystopian setting, political games and fight for survival.
I know I'm going to be going against the grain with this, but I'm afraid I'm team Gayle. There's something a little like a lost puppy about Peeta. He unequivocal love and selflessness towards Catniss is charming, but he does not have the grit and fight of Gayle. I look at Gayle and Catniss like two halves of a coin. Where Peeta and Catniss are not equal partners, forever circling around one another's plans.
The character that surprised me by really growing on me in this novel was Haymitch. You begin to understand the surly alcoholic. This reason for his loneliness and empty existence. What it must have been like year after year to send two children from district twelve to their death, barely able to help them. You realise he doesn't want to be sober, because he has no reason to. And surprisingly I began to really like him.
I didn't see the twist in the middle of the book coming, and my heart nearly broke for Katniss once more as she become the victim of President Snow's vicious manoeuvrings, as he desperately tries to quell the uprising.
This book throws in some great new characters, my favourite has to be the handsome and charismatic Finnick, he adds a new dynamic to the story. Can you, can't you trust him, who is the man behind the flirty facade?
Katniss is quite naive at times, but just when I was shaking my head at her for not keeping up, the storyline dealt me a revelation that had quickly passed me by and I realised she was not the only one who had been kept guessing. Actually there are quite a few surprises in this book, the ending itself was a shocker and I was glad I had the third audiobook lined up to listen to straight afterwards.
A fabulous second instalment in this very well written trilogy. Katniss keeps bouncing back no matter what is thrown at her and is no doubt a survivor. This book will throw some shockers at you and the second half is tense, gritty and action packed.(less)
*Warning small spoiler towards the end, but the paragraph is highligh...moreReviewed for Book Chick City's Audio Book Sunday Feature
(8 out of 10 on the blog)
*Warning small spoiler towards the end, but the paragraph is highlighted so you can skip it*
This book reads like a fairytale, a grown up Cinderella story. Carpenter's daughter Ellysetta is on the verge of being trapped into a marriage with hideous butcher's son, when something unbelievable happens. The infamous and powerful Rain Tairen Soul arrives and claims she is his shei'tani, his true mate.
Rain Tairen Soul is the Lord of the Fading Lands and a Fey warrior. His people have never recovered from a terrible war with the Dark Mages over a thousand years ago and it has been centuries since a new Fey child has been born. Worried about the survival of his race, he is desperately seeking for a solution. He never expected to find his true mate. In fact, Rain is a Tairen, and the Tairen do not have true mates. So her discovery is unbelievable, but at the same time undeniable.
Of course, everyone knows what happened the last time Rain had a mate, and she wasn't even his shei'tani. Her murder nearly bought about the destruction of the world. A darkness Rain nearly didn't come back from. He is man of legend and ferocity.
The romance in this book is absolutely tender and captivating. Ellie's vulnerability and naivety perfectly offsets Rain's darkness and power, whilst at the same time complementing one another. I adored the rags to riches element of the story. Poor, common Ellie stealing the heart of the King of the Fey.
As the first in the series the novel is setting up the story for later books. The burgeoning blackness, the rise of the Mages once again and a poignant discovery about Ellie's parentage.
This novel does have a strong fantasy setting that may put off some, but if you don't usually read this genre don't let it put you off. I would go as far to say that if you're an epic fantasy fan this book isn't for you. This is a stunning romance through and through, with an unusual fantasy background.
The one downside of listening to fantasy story as an audiobook is that it can make all of the unusual names and places harder to get your head around. For some reason I find them easier to grasp when I can visualise how they're spelt.
The narrator of the audiobook was very good, however, the production itself seemed to be very poorly edited. The switches between narrative phrases were too short, there were jumps in the story without pause which messed up the rhythm of the audiobook. Then you would have long gaps and you'd think it was a break and then dialogue between characters would continue. Which got quite irritating.
*Spoiler in the next paragraph*
As much as I loved this book, I have marked it book down a point, because it contains one of my pet hates. I don't have a problem with dream sequences in general, in a lot of stories they play an important part. But, what I cannot stand is the consummation of a relationship via a dream sequence. It you aren't there in person and flesh isn't touching flesh, then it isn't real!
The love story between Ellie and Rain is so magical, the tension, genuine love and affection grown so tenderly, that it was a scene I anticipated. Rain had sworn a Fey oath to Ellie's father that he wouldn't make love to Ellie before they were married, and this just felt like such a cop out! I'd have rather of waited until the next book for the real deal.
*End of spoiler*
The romance of this book totally swept me away. I really cannot wait to read (listen) to the next instalment in Ellie and Rain's love story. Frustratingly, it doesn't seem like it's been recorded yet, or at least not for distribution in the UK. Let's hope that changes soon!
Fans of romance will love this story and I'm really excited to have found this series, because if they're as good as this book I know I'm going to adore them. (less)
I'm not usually one for sweeping statements, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to go with it here. This has to be on the list as one of the worst contemporary romances I've read. I will put a caveat and say that some people on Goodreads have given it 4 or 5 stars so this is my personal opinion, but it was sheer grit and determination that I persevered until the end. I've read a few Diana Palmer books before and I've found them a fun and cosy.
This is the story of FBI agent Kilraven and sweet and quiet dispatcher Winnie. Winnie has had a soft spot for Kilraven for a long time, but having lost his wife and daughter in a shoot out relating to a crime he was investigating, Kilraven does not want to settle down again.
My biggest problem with this novel is that the plot was both confusing and had a lot of holes in it. The murder mystery element of the story gets incredibly confusing. There are lots of characters and sub plots running which makes it very hard to keep track. I ended up getting a little lost as to who was who, and who was a suspect.
Then there were the general plot holes. For example, I found it quite remarkable after in the early chapters Winnie comments on how much she and her estranged mother look alike, so much so that her father used to beat her for it. Then when it turns out that Kilraven has been friends and worked with her mother in the FBI for years, he is stunned to find out she is Winnie's mother. Additionally, Kilraven's brother, also in the FBI, is in charge of the investigation into her wife and daughter's murder. What about personal interest? And there are lots of incidents like this, that just do not add up.
While this book was a contemporary romance, the story would have been much better suited as a historical. Firstly, let's take the reason Kilraven and Winnie 'have' to get married. During the course of the investigation, they will be staying alone in Winnie's family home in the Carribbean. As Winnie is a virgin, Kilraven does not want to sully her reputation by staying with her. So his solution to this problem is to marry her. Of course he then adds that they can then have have a dirty weekend together and then he can just divorce her afterwards! Despite knowing that Winnie has the total hots for him too. Despite my moral objection to Kilraven's view of using and discarding Winnie. Do people really think about women's reputations like this anymore?
Then, while discussing his problems with ex-wife, Kilraven's expresses how upset he was that his wife wasn't a virgin on their wedding night. I can take the fact that in a romance that more often that not the heroine is a virgin is this is part of the formula, and actually I usually find it quite sweet. But, let's face it this is the 21st century and the author needs to treat her readers like modern women.
In terms of the characters, I found Winnie sweet and I very much liked her, but I actually ended up entirely disliking Kilraven, finding him to be a cold and selfish person. Putting aside the implausible reason as to why they had to get married. The very reason he thought it would be acceptable is pretty ghastly. Then let's look at the sex scene itself. Kilraven ends up hurting Winnie so much during their consummation that she cries all the way through it. But this is ok because he hasn't had sex for seven years and couldn't help himself and you know, he made up for it afterwards! Ugh, at this point I did actually shout at my iPod.
The narrator to the audiobook was male. I'm not sure how I feel about male narrators to romance books, or whether I just did not engage with this narrator. But he certainly didn't help with my overall problems with the book. The falsetto voice he used for the female characters was very odd.
I do hate giving negative reviews to books as I am conscious that this is someone's livelihood. But I'm afraid my advice here would be to save your money.(less)
If you haven't read of the Harper Connolly series before, it's from t...moreReviewed for Book Chick City's Audio Book Sunday Feature
(6 out of 10 on the blog)
If you haven't read of the Harper Connolly series before, it's from the viewpoint of Harper a young woman who was struck by lightening in her teens and since then has been able to sense the dead. Not as in talk to the dead, but sense where they're buried, how long they've been dead for and the cause of death. Since that fateful day she and her stepbrother Tolliver have made a living traveling the country investigating the causes of different people's deaths.
Book four in the series is very much about Harper and Tolliver's family life, although of course the usual murder mystery element is included as Harper unintentionally unravels some deep family secrets at her latest job. We finally meet their half sisters, Tolliver's brother and Tolliver's drug addict father is released from jail much to their displeasure.
The action takes no time in getting going with Tolliver getting shot in their motel room and leaving Harper on her own. I hadn't quite realised how vulnerable Harper really was until her support was taken away, and without Tolliver she seems like a broken doll. Her actions were erratic and she seemed very lost.
This book very much felt like Charlaine Harris was drawing the series to a close, although I cannot find anything on her website that confirms that. But the great thing is we finally get some answers. Most importantly about Harper and Tolliver's past and what happened to Harper's sister Cameron who has been missing for years. This was the favourite part for me, it was nice to seem Harper finally find out the truth and be allowed to grieve for her sister.
What I did struggle with and didn't actually expect to was Harper and Tolliver's relationship. It's strange as I wanted them to get together in the last book and was really routing for them, having no problem with them being step brother and sister. But the relationship did not seem to translate that well in this book. Harper herself describes her relationship with Tolliver has having a certain 'ick' factor. And that's how it felt... Icky. I think I might have something to do with the fact that they still referred to themselves as brother and sister or perhaps this was enhanced by their family's reaction to their news. But the sex scenes just made me squirm uncomfortably in my seat.
This is the first time I have listened to one of Charlaine Harris books as an audiobook, instead of reading it in the traditional way. I'm a big fan of hers, but couldn't decide if the story lacked a little pace or the narrator was reading it too slow. Charlaine has a distinct and detailed writing style, and I wonder if it's that when I read her books myself I skip over a lot of the erroneous I had a shower and shaved my legs detail which she is quite famous for, and which seemed a bit tedious when described in an audiobook. I found myself getting a little bored at times.
This is not the best book in the series so far, but it was nice to finally get some answers about Harper's sister. If you're a fan of the books it is worth reading to get some closure, but I have to say I think Charlaine Harris has written a lot better. (less)
The third and final book of the trilogy has a much darker tone (if you can believe it) than the first two. Katniss has now survived two horrendous hunger games, so much death and violence, and is now the face of the rebellion. Recovering in district thirteen, President Snow will stop at nothing to destroy her and all those she cares about. And to make things worse, he has Peeta...
None of the characters are who they were anymore, they are all slightly broken. Like china bowls that have been smashed and glued back together again, they are not quite complete or whole any longer.
I did miss the tough Katniss from the first two books, her fragility is painful to watch. I got excited when she fought in district two. But Katniss excels because she is a survivor, and there were times when I wanted her to get back up and keep fighting, to scream, kick and do everything she can possibly do to remain true to herself. But she has suffered too much to be unchanged.
As the book progresses and we learn more about district 13 and I became terrified that the survivors are just swapping one harsh dictatorship for another. I worry that the new world they fight for will not actually be new in anyway and that in itself is heartbreaking.
President Snow's ruthlessness knows no bounds. Just when you think Katniss and the tributes can't possibly suffer anymore, The Capitol throws some other appalling manipulation or punishment at them. And Peeta, oh Peeta what can I say? As much as I'm team Gale, I found that I missed the bread-baking, gentle Peeta who would do anything for Katniss.
As with the previous books, the second half was better than the first. It delivers plenty of twists and also prepare yourself for painful tragedy. Then comes the ending, a dark and uncompromising turn of events as Katniss has to make some terrible decisions.
I am in awe of Suzanne Collins' writing skills. I could not have predicted how this trilogy would have ended. In my opinion the first book was the best of the three, but this trilogy is an absolute must-read and is up there with my all time favourites.
I quite literally ached for Katniss and all of the atrocities she has endured. The epilogue itself was bitter-sweet, and prepared there is a good chance that tissues may be required.(less)
In 'The Spirit Thief', Aaron has created a clever world where every thing in the world has...moreReviewed for www.bookchickcity.com (7 out of 10 on the blog)
In 'The Spirit Thief', Aaron has created a clever world where every thing in the world has a soul. Be it the wind or a singular piece of wood. Every item has a soul and a will of their own. Which is where wizards come in. Wizards or spiritualists can talk to the spirits, a good wizard treats spirits with respect and takes spirits into their service via a contract. A bad wizard takes away a spirit's will and forces them into servitude.
The story is of two main characters. The cheeky and wildly charismatic Eli, who also happens to be a wanted thief and Miranda the spiritualist charged with tracking him down and apprehending him.
Both characters are polar opposites, with Miranda being a total stickler for the rules and Eli very much enjoying flaunting them to see just how much he can get away with. Eli is such a fab character he's witty, cheeky and clever and despite the fact he is a notorious thief and a bit of a rogue, I loved that intrinsically he was still a good person.
Eli is like that friend of yours who despite the fact is always up to mischief and drives you a bit crackers, yet you still can't help but like him. His mission is to increase the bounty on his head to a million gold coins and he glories in his notoriety. So what better way to increase this than to kidnap a King and hold him to ransom? Eli's madcap plans are just hilarious and I couldn't help but delight in that fact that he charmed himself through most of them too.
However, I really liked Miranda also, disciplined, honourable and determined. It's her essential goodness that makes her who she is, and the banter between her and Eli never fails to amuse. Of course, when the real baddie comes into play you know the inevitable has to happen and they're just going to have to team up for the greater good.
We never really get to the bottom of what drives Eli, why he is so obsessed with increasing the bounty in his head and I think we'll have to wait for subsequent books in the series to really understand him.
The sidekicks in the book are also an interesting combination. Eli has Josef the expert swordsman and Nico a young girl with a demonseed inside of her and Miranda has a ghost-hound, a giant dog who can jump buildings and run faster than a horse is the best way I can describe him. All great characters in their own right. I found I wanted to learn more about them, particularly Josef and Nico.
A part of me was hoping for a sneaky, unorthodox love story between Eli and Miranda. But in retrospect I can see now that it wouldn't have fitted in with the overall tone of the book. I think I'm just too much of a romantic at heart!
The book is narrated by Luke Daniels, who I've mentioned before in my reviews as one of my favourite narrators. He always manages to get the tone of the book and the voices for the characters in such a way you can fully imagine them.
This book isn't really gritty or dark, it's more of a light, fun adventure story. But it's well written with great characters. I also think it would appeal to YA fans.(less)
I have to begin this review by stating just how much I loved this boo...moreReviewed for Book Chick City's Audio Book Sunday Feature
(9 out of 10 on the blog)
I have to begin this review by stating just how much I loved this book! I think it could very well be my favourite urban fantasy of the year so far. It's strange I tend to often stick to female lead characters in my books, but after reading 'Hounded' I think that's probably very shortsighted of me.
Atticus is a Druid, don't be fooled be his youthful appearance. He's not in fact 21, but 2100 years old. But Atticus hasn't survived this long by being the toughest and baddest around, no Atticus has lived this long by being very, very clever.
Unfortunately Atticus has also upset an ancient celtic God and been on the run from him for most of this time too, hiding a very powerful and dangerous sword from him. And it looks like Atticus's time may just about be up.
This book is so well written, it's pacy, imaginative, but best of all it's packed full of fantastic dry wit. Sometimes the wit is quite subtle and it sneakily catches up on you, causing a belated chortle. In fact overall this book is absolutely hilarious. It's shame I listened to it as an audio books otherwise I could quote some stunning one-liners to you.
Atticus is a great hero, while he is powerful, it was his cunning and intelligence that really made me like him, as he manoeuvred through situations through brain not brawn. But equally important is just how cool he is, the kind of coolness that comes about without that person even trying.
I also have to mention Atticus's awesome sidekick, Oberon the Irish Wolfhound. Who can communicate with Atticus mind to mind, which is handy as he can share with Atticus his obsession with French poodles and his dream of becoming like Genghis Khan. His latest hero of choice. And of course I mustn't forget the sausages!
Humour aside there also some superb action scenes, sword fights ahoy! Showing while he can be clever, Atticus can also kick some serious butt when required. The characters of this book are well thought out, mixing Irish myth into the story. As well as Irish Gods, you've got werewolves, vampires and witches. Plenty of supernatural species to keep you busy.
The narrator of this book was Luke Daniels, I've listened to a couple of books narrated by him and he is fast becoming one of my favourite audio narrators. He totally sucks you into the story and grasps the essence of the character he is portraying. Making this a really entertaining audiobook.
Quite frankly I defy you not to like 'Hounded'. It is without a doubt being added to my favourite urban fantasy book list. And I shall be purchasing the subsequent instalments very, very soon. If you love urban fantasy, it's a must-read.
'How To Marry A Millionaire Vampire' is quite a mixed book. On one ha...moreReviewed for Book Chick City's Audio Book Sunday Feature
(6 out of 10 on the blog)
'How To Marry A Millionaire Vampire' is quite a mixed book. On one hand there are some very funny scenes that had me chuckling away, even if at times it border-lined on the silly. It is also compromised of some fantastic characters. Aside from our two main characters, you have a security team made up of highlander (yes all in kilts), vampires. Gregori, Roman's head of marketing and his mother to name just a few. And Sparks characterisation itself is great. But there were also quite a few things wrong with it for me.
The story is around dentist Shanna Whelan who is in the Witness Protection Programme on the run from the Russian Mafia. Shanna also has a phobia of blood. Vampire Roman had a bit of an 'accident' biting something he should have (I won't spoil it for you as it's quite funny), and needs a dentist asap before he heals fangless.
Roman happens to turn up at Shanna's surgery just in time to rescue her from a mob hit and saves her life. Then discovers a big problem, he can't use mind control on her. So with her life on the line and the threat of being a one-fanged vampire, Roman takes her under his protection.
The vampire world Sparks has created his hilarious, from vampire cuisine blood, vampire tv, the fact that all vampires are not suave, brave and gorgeous, but geeky, scared, and as flawed as humans. It's a comedy as much as it's a romance. Roman is a great character, the handsome, wounded vampire genius. And Shanna is gutsy and brave, if a touch annoying at times.
But there were things that did not work for me. Firstly, the author does seem to have a fascination with the phrase 'God's Blood'. At one stage I decided to try and count how many times it was used is one chapter, and then quite frankly gave up. It's almost every paragraph and I did get to the stage that it seriously, seriously irritated me.
Another part of the plot I really disliked, was the concept of vampire mind sex. I've mentioned before how I particularly dislike the consummation of a relationship via a dream sequence, but this seemed even worse. The ability to have sex with multiple partners all at the same time, was a bit grim really. There was a course a scene of vampire mind sex between Shanna and Roman, and one stage he had about ten pairs of hands on her in intimate places, which came across as a bit creepy rather than sexy. Also, don't get me started on Roman's harem (yes he had one)...
The plot itself is a bit of a jumble and seemed to dot all over the place, and branch off into all sorts of different areas, trying to fit in too many things for one novel. Almost as though the author had too many ideas and perhaps should have kept some back for the next book. The audiobook was narrated by Suzanne Cypress, who was a great narrator. Creating different tones, voices and even convincing Scottish accents for each of the characters.
'How To Marry A Millionaire Vampire' is the first book in an eleven book series, so I can only imagine that the author's writing gets tighter and these issues get smoothed out. It certainly has a lot of potential as a series, Sparks' characterisation and humour really do make this book, and despite the few flaws it's an amusing and entertaining read. (less)