John van de Ruit's Spud books are a publishing phenomenon in South Africa. My theory is that a large part...moreReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
John van de Ruit's Spud books are a publishing phenomenon in South Africa. My theory is that a large part of their appeal is the fact that van de Ruit has managed to make the reader feel that they are part of the story. We've followed John “Spud” Milton through his last three years of boarding school – cheered at his successes, cringed at his family's madcap antics and followed his less-than-simple love life. And now with Spud – Exit, Pursued by a Bear we join Spud for one more year of adventure, discovery and would-be romance.
A book written entirely in diary form runs the risk of losing its sense of narrative, so it's a testament to John van de Ruit's writing skill that Spud – Exit, Pursued by a Bear reads comfortably as a continual story. It's been great to see how Spud's voice has matured through the series and it remains true to character and age. It's this consistency in storytelling and voice that allows the reader to dive straight into the book from page one.
In Spud- Exit, Pursued by a Bear John van de Ruit is back to the form that had me falling in love with Spud and the rest of the Crazy Eight in the first book. There's a great balance of laugh-out-loud humour with the more serious theme of personal identity and the challenges of impending adulthood and independence. And there are some priceless comedic moments which had me laughing out loud and in serious danger of choking on my coffee at one point. But the comedy never feels forced and that is the gift of a writer with real talent for the genre.
Spud – Exit, Pursued by a Bear is the perfect ending to a series that has captured people's hearts and imaginations.
Hex Hall is one of those books that so many people have recommended to me. Now, this level of enthusiasm for a book...moreReview from my blog The Word Fiend
Hex Hall is one of those books that so many people have recommended to me. Now, this level of enthusiasm for a book can go one of two ways for me: either I love it as well or I am sorely disappointed and wonder what all of the fuss is about. With Hex Hall I lean towards the former. While I may not wax lyrical about it like some reviewers, it was a cracking good read and a fun way to spend a day.
The cover for this particular edition of Hex Hall is fun and captures some of the book's essence. The three girls striding towards the reader may look normal enough, but I love the shadows that they cast – those of two witches and one demon. It reminds the reader that not everything may be as it initially appears. As the tagline states: Witches, vampires, magic... welcome to Freak High.
Hex Hall is hilarious. It is a very entertaining read with a well handled plot. One of the things I found quite refreshing about it was that a lot of the teen angst that is present in most YA fiction isn't in Hex Hall. Now, I love a good bit of drama as much as the next girl, but it is nice to read a book for entertainment's sake as well. Don't misunderstand me, Hex Hall is not a silly novel with no substance. It does cover ideas such as belonging and finding our place in the world that YA fiction does so well. There is also a love triangle to contend with. But Hawkins' writing style allows her to deal with these issues in a more light-hearted way that is still effective and gives Hex Hall a unique feel among a lot of similar YA novels.
I really like the idea of Hecate Hall – a reform school for difficult and problem Prodigium (the magical races such as faeries, witches and shapeshifters). It means that along with the usual high school issues is the fact that many of the students are, or may be, dangerous. It adds a layer of suspense to the story that plays well into the mystery around the attacks that are taking place there.
I thought Sophie Mercer was a treat! She's a sarcasm-flinging sixteen-year-old witch who doesn't always know when to leave well enough alone. Sophie was raised by her all-human mother and when she arrives at Hecate Hall, she realises there is so much about herself and this world that she doesn't know. Apart from her scathing sense of humour the thing I like about Sophie is how she responds to situations. She gets freaked out, she has a drama queen moment and she's capable of being petty. In other words: she's real. Well, magic aside.
Hex Hall is a great read if you're looking for something to make you think, but entertain you while you do it. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series, Demonglass.(less)
The research for my Honours degree in Cell Biology relied largely on cell culture. I have a passion for this field...moreReview from my blog The Word Fiend.
The research for my Honours degree in Cell Biology relied largely on cell culture. I have a passion for this field and I had heard of HeLa (pronounced hee-lah) cells and some of the work done with them. But I had never heard about their origin and history, so when I saw The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks I knew it was a book I had to read.
I found the cover for this edition evocative of the history covered by the book and the silhouette of a woman’s face reminds the reader that this book isn’t only about science – it’s about one black woman’s extraordinary contribution to science and medicine. I found this an effective and eye-catching image.
What often puts me off about books dealing with science is that they can be quite flat and lifeless. I am happy to report that this was not the case with The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The facts are there, but Rebecca Skloot has managed to present the very human face of Henrietta, her family and the scientists who are a part of her story. The book is well structured and reads like a novel. It drew me in to the story.
HeLa cells are extraordinary. They thrive in a tissue culture environment and have allowed researchers to make huge strides in numerous fields – from tissue culture itself, through gene mapping and cancer research to the development of life-saving drugs like the polio vaccine. These cancer cells, taken from a tumour on Henrietta’s cervix, are a marvel. It has been estimated that in the fifty years since they were first cultured that more than fifty million metric tons of HeLa cells have been grown in laboratories around the world. To give you an idea of scale – if these HeLa cells were laid end-to-end they would wrap around the world at least three times. But what about the woman who made all of this possible?
Using records and interviews with family members Skloot has managed to bring Henrietta Lacks to life. Her story and that of her family plays a large part in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. There is a very human side to this book that was interesting to read. Skloot puts the times and actions of the various family members and researchers into a context that gives the reader perspective. But she doesn’t shy away from the ethical questions raised by Henrietta’s story.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a science book about people. Rebecca Skloot has done a great job weaving the strands of fact into a story that will make you think.(less)
I can sum up my feelings about Intertwined in two words: Hell + Yes.
I don’t always like book covers where the model’s face is only partially shown, but I think it was the right decision for Intertwined. It lends a feeling of mystery and it allows the model’s body to dominate the image – radiating strength and purpose.
Intertwined is the first of Gena Showalter’s books that I have read, so I can’t compare it to her adult series. But I was very impressed with both her world-building and her writing style in this book. Showalter’s writing is assured and controlled with virtually no “padding” – action that is not directly related to the plot in some way. I also love her style and sense of humour.
The world Showalter has created in Intertwined is an interesting one, especially for fans of the supernatural. There are vampires, shapeshifters, witches, fairies, goblins, demons and ghosts (oh my!) aplenty to keep you entertained. She has remained true to most of the lore that exists about these creatures, but she has put thought into how the different groups interact and that I enjoyed. I don’t expect every author to come up with a new idea about demons or vampires, but I do expect them to have worked out how those beings relate to each other in the fictional world they have created. And that’s what Showalter has done in Intertwined.
I don’t often develop character crushes, but I may be developing one for Aden Stone. He’s an interesting character with a rich and relevant history behind him. And while most of that history isn’t happy I never felt sorry for Aden. I felt sympathy for him, yes. But I never pitied him. I loved this about Intertwined – Aden’s past has helped to make him into the character he is, but it hasn’t broken him. It’s almost as if his refusal to feel sorry for himself is transferred to the reader. This is a testament to Showalter’s characters and writing. You would think that having four separate souls taking up space in Aden’s head would make for a disjointed and confusing narrative, but it doesn’t. I loved the fact that right from the start each soul had its own distinct personality and that it was easy to differentiate between them. They are great characters in their own right.
Intertwined is my first Gena Showalter book, but it definitely won’t be my last. (less)
Warning: As this is the second book in a trilogy this review may contain spoilers for those who have not read the f...moreReview from my blog The Word Fiend.
Warning: As this is the second book in a trilogy this review may contain spoilers for those who have not read the first one, The Left Hand of God.
I had mixed feelings after finishing the first book in this series, The Left Hand of God. I enjoyed the world that Paul Hoffman has created and was intrigued by Thomas Cale, the violent and unpredictable young man at the heart of the story. But I wasn’t entirely sure I liked how The Left Hand of God had ended. So I was very excited when I received The Last Four Things for review to see what had become of Cale and his friends.
But first a note on the book’s cover – I like it. The blue light backlighting the hooded and armed warrior as he advances into the darkness of the foreground fits in well with the Redeemers’ outlook. And especially with their view of Cale as God’s wrath incarnate.
Paul Hoffman has created a fantasy world that draws strongly on the “real” world for its names and culture. But it’s the way he has combined these elements that makes this world different. Medieval culture exists beside ancient Greek and so on. I found that the references to civilizations and places I know made it easier to submerge myself in Hoffman’s world. His writing style is easy and there are some great turns of phrase throughout The Last Four Things.
The religion of The Hanged Redeemer plays a crucial role in this series. It shapes the characters and many of their decisions and actions in one way or another. Again Hoffman has drawn on the history of Christianity and used elements to create something familiar, but dark and unsettling at the same time. The politics and infighting that is an intrinsic part of any such large organisation allows Hoffman to introduce subplots and greater complications.
Thomas Cale is a bit of an enigma as far as main characters go. At times his humanity and something more gentle show through and you begin to like him. But then, often within a page, he has become a hard and violent person who trails catastrophe and blood in his wake. It’s at these moments that you can almost believe that he is the embodiment of God’s wrath. This constant shift in Cale’s behaviour and demeanour can be quite unsettling and as a result I was often not sure what to feel about him. This is a risky way for an author to handle their main character because readers need someone to connect with in the story. But Hoffman manages to pull it off by showing us glimpses if Cale’s humanity and by balancing him with other characters. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about Thomas Cale, but I’m leaning towards liking him and I do know that I want to read the next book to see what happens to him. He’s a puzzle I really want to solve.
Paul Hoffman’s The Last Four Things does a good job of advancing the story and characters he introduced us to in The Left Hand of God. And he’s left me wanting to know what he’s got in store for us next. (less)
I have rarely been as blown away by a book as I was by Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. The artistry of h...moreReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
I have rarely been as blown away by a book as I was by Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. The artistry of her writing and the story she weaves are breathtaking.
The famous saying tells us that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, I would love to see the image that could capture Laini Taylor’s. It would have to capture the imagination, subtlety and grace of this talented author’s work and I’m not sure that a single image could manage it.
The flow of the story is very well handled, with seamless shifts in perspective and place that I could only marvel at. Often there is a feeling of disjointedness when books shift in time between the present and memories, but Daughter of Smoke and Bone remains a cohesive whole and these shifts only act to enhance the story. Laini Taylor has a real talent as a writer. She breathes life into her world and characters through her words and it was a pleasure to just experience this book. I was very quickly swept up by the narrative and my first thought when finishing the last word was: I want more.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is set in two different worlds; the human one and Elsewhere. Both settings are rich in detail and atmosphere – so much so that I could easily imagine opening a door somewhere and coming face-to-face with Brimstone. The magic used in the book is interesting and I was especially intrigued by the system of wishes and their strengths that Taylor has created. But more than that is the fact that she has given Elsewhere an interesting history that has a direct impact on Karou’s story. I love the world of chimeras and seraphs and that it feels as real as the one we live in.
Karou is an engaging character with her love of drawing, her peacock blue hair and her mysterious background. And that’s not even counting her association with Brimstone. I liked Karou’s determination and kindness and that she grows and develops as a character through the events of the story. Brimstone is a fascinating character and I especially enjoyed discovering the depth in his personality that he tries to cover up. Then there’s Akiva, the gorgeous, but tortured seraph who enters Karou’s life. He is a complex character and I loved the relationship that began to develop between him and Karou.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is an astonishing read filled with depth and magic by a very talented author. (less)
The second I read the back cover blurb for The Boy With Two Heads I was hooked – there were just so many p...moreReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
The second I read the back cover blurb for The Boy With Two Heads I was hooked – there were just so many possibilities for this story and I knew I had to read it. The book didn't quite live up to my expectations, but its central themes of friendship and acceptance are important and well-handled.
The Boy With Two Heads starts at a great pace – Richard Westlake wakes up one morning with a suspicious lump in his throat and is rushed off to hospital. The lump continues to grow and the reader is caught in breathless anticipation as one of the doctors announces that it is a second head, and that it's developing at a rapid rate. I was swept up by the beginning of The Boy With Two Heads – the excitement of the unknown and the undercurrent of menace coming from the doctors promised a thrilling adventure. Unfortunately I found that the central portion of the book dropped the ball. The pacing slowed to a crawl and the charged atmosphere that Mulligan had created in the beginning was nowhere to be seen. There was a rekindling of that spark that had initially caught my interest towards the end of the book which went some way towards redeeming the story.
The lead characters in most Young Adult fiction are in their mid-to-late teens, so it was a bit of an adjustment reading about a group of eleven-year-olds. They're interesting characters, but I think I'm just a bit too old to connect with that age group and that affected my enjoyment of the book as a whole. Richard is a quiet, well-mannered boy and the contrast between him and Rikki, his second head, is marked. Where Richard just wants to get along with people, Rikki seems hell-bent on destroying his friendships and reputation. It was interesting to watch the relationship between Richard and Rikki as it initially worsened and then began to heal as the two parts came to terms with one another.
The Boy With Two Heads is essentially a book about accepting who you are and the nature of friendship. It has an important message for young people and I think I may be just a bit too old to have appreciated it fully.(less)
The Dig is an entertaining adventure with just a dash of romance thrown in to keep things interesting. It’s a promi...moreReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
The Dig is an entertaining adventure with just a dash of romance thrown in to keep things interesting. It’s a promising start to a new YA trilogy with some Greek flavour.
I love this cover. It does everything a cover should do – it attracts your attention and it gives you a feel for the kind of book you’ll be reading. The slightly out-of-focus hall with its statuary and marble flooring brings to mind an ancient temple and sets the scene for the book. But it’s the legs with their wings of sparking electricity at the ankles that really catch the eye and make you want to know more. My compliments to the design team at Backlit Fiction for a job well done.
I love Greek mythology. It has it all; the drama, the romance, the danger and even the family feuds. And it is such a fertile land for authors to explore. Some get it right and some just don’t. But Audrey Hart has definitely gotten it right with her debut novel, The Dig. She’s taken the Greek myths we know and love, brushed off some of the dust and cobwebs and shown us something new and interesting under the surface. Purists will probably frown on this, but as far as I’m concerned Hart has given her own fresh slant to the mythology and her story world benefits from it.
I enjoyed Hart’s writing style. The words flow easily and her world came alive as I was reading. It was refreshing to read a YA novel that wasn’t drowning in drama – there are important themes of self-discovery in The Dig, but Hart manages to use humour to keep the mood from becoming too dark.
Zoe Calder is a bit of an outcast – she doesn’t really fit in with any of the groups at school. And it’s largely because she doesn’t see the point of all of the effort and stress that goes into fitting in. I could identify with that. I liked Zoe. She’s independent, logical and a little feisty. Through the book Zoe learns to appreciate her own strengths and I enjoyed this character development. Then there’s Zeus. Forget the mental image you have of a big beard, a scowl and lightning bolt. Well, you can keep the lightning bolt, but we’re talking about a young and earnest young god here. And did I mention good-looking? I enjoyed the budding romance between Zoe and Zeus, although I’m hoping she learns to think straight around him.
Audrey Hart’s debut novel, The Dig, is an entertaining re-imagining of Greek mythology. When can I get my hands on book two? (less)
I expect two things from any Paranormal Romance novel I read: a solid story and an interesting relationship at its...moreReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
I expect two things from any Paranormal Romance novel I read: a solid story and an interesting relationship at its heart. In Blood of the Demon Rosalie Lario delivers on both.
The colour scheme used for the cover of Blood of the Demon is wonderfully eye-catching. But it also ties into the story itself which is something I really appreciated. The red in the lower half of the cover and the flames that lick up into the blue are representative of both the demon world of Infernum and of Keegan as well. The cityscape shows the setting for the book – our own world where otherworldly creatures and beings walk among us. The couple are a good match for the image of Keegan and Brynn I have in my mind.
In good Paranormal Romance the world and the story are as strong as the romantic aspect of the book. And Rosalie Lario has created an interesting and nuanced world of demons, humans and things that go bump-in-the-night. I really appreciated the thought that she has put into the history of her world and of her characters – it adds depth and texture to the story. The plot of Blood of the Demon is well paced and kept me turning the pages to find out what happens next.
Keegan is a strong character and I liked that Lario let him show softness on occasion – it prevents him from being a completely dominant alpha male and makes him more real. His loyalty to his brothers is a strong driving force in his life and it influences his decisions and actions. I loved watching that loyalty slowly expand to include Brynn. I have mixed feelings about Brynn. I felt that Lario could have rounded her character out more. She seemed to react to events in the plot, but not really take charge of her situation which is at odds with the strong-willed character she is supposed to be. But through Keegan’s view of her I came to understand and like Brynn. The romance between Keegan and Brynn is intense and very sexy. There was more to the relationship than the purely physical though, and they both grow and develop as characters through the story. Although Brynn and Keegan are the main characters in Blood of the Demon Keegan’s brothers make a definite impact. Each brother, including Keegan, is half-demon from their father, but they have each inherited different traits from their mothers. The bond between the brothers is clear and a pleasure to read.
Rosalie Lario debut is a promising start to a series that looks set to excite and entertain readers and I’m sure that as she continues to write that her books will only get better. (less)
Those of you who know me know that I am not fond of books involving fairies, elves, goblins or any other...moreReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
Those of you who know me know that I am not fond of books involving fairies, elves, goblins or any other fairytale race. So imagine my surprise when I found myself enjoying Switched and the world of the trylle that Amanda Hocking has created.
The cover for Switched makes use of one of my favourite techniques – contrasting black and white images with bright colour. The woods in the background resemble the unknown and hint at the fairytale elements of the story. The orange butterflies are gorgeous and draw the eye immediately. They also have two symbolic meanings that tie in with Wendy’s story: freedom and change/metamorphosis. Wendy longs to find a place where she belongs – the ultimate freedom – and she experiences change on two main levels through the book – in her life and in herself.
I love that Amanda Hocking first found success with e-books. For me it proves that readers will always find a good story and that indie authors can make it. Now, in this new release from Tor, Hocking’s Trylle trilogy is being introduced to a whole new audience.
Amanda Hocking has created an interesting world where trylle (trolls, although the stereotypes don’t apply) leave their babies with human families to be raised. She has put a lot of thought into the social structure of trylle society and the different factions that exist. I enjoyed this, because it always helps the story to come to life when the world the author creates is alive. Hocking starts Switched on a high note and controls the pace quite well throughout the story.
There are a few memorable characters in Switched. The first is Wendy and I couldn’t help but feel horrible for the way she has been treated by her mother. At seventeen Wendy is older than a lot of YA heroines and I liked the extra surety this gave her. But she does have a tendency to be a drama queen and I found myself wanting to slap her out of it a few times. But even so, I became involved in Wendy’s story and wanted to know what happened to her. Finn is a good balance to Wendy. Where she is impulsive and prone to fits of anger, he is calm and considers his actions. He plays his cards close to his chest and that intrigues me. Matt, Wendy’s older brother, is a strong presence in her life, but he came across as rather one-dimensional and I hope that we get to learn more about him in the next book. Willa, Tove and Rhys are all great characters Wendy meets among the trylle and they help to round out the story and give it added depth.
Switched is an entertaining read that explores everyone’s need to find somewhere they belong. (less)
I’ve seen Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson books reviewed and talked about on a couple of blogs. That got me curious...moreReview from my blog The Word Fiend.
I’ve seen Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson books reviewed and talked about on a couple of blogs. That got me curious enough to want to track down the first book in the series to see for myself what all of the chatter was about. And boy was I seriously impressed!
I always like to start my reviews by having a look at the cover art for the edition I have read. I liked this particular cover the first time I saw it. You know how sometimes the depiction of the main character on a cover doesn’t really gel with the way you see them in your head? For me that can make even an amazing cover a disappointment. But I had nothing to worry about while reading Moon Called. The woman on the cover is exactly how I picture Mercy in my head. But not only does the image match my mental one, the artist has managed to capture some of Mercy’s character as well. The huge gate behind her with the wolf statues silhouetted by the full moon is an elegantly simple way of bringing in the werewolves that play an important role in the book. This is a great cover.
Patricia Briggs’ has created an urban fantasy that incorporates many of the usual players: werewolves, vampires and the fae. It’s a system that works and I believe it’s how the author uses that system that makes or breaks an urban fantasy book. Briggs rocks the system. Because she works with the accepted norms for the various supernatural groups this leaves her room to build on the dynamics between the groups and, more importantly, to develop her characters.
Reading Moon Called felt like coming home to old friends even though I have never read any of Briggs’ books before. The pace of the plot was well thought out and kept me glued to the page from start to finish. Briggs’ writing is vibrant and unforced, making the story easy to fall into. But what I was most impressed with were the characters in Moon Called.
I like Mercy Thompson very much. As I mentioned before, it really did feel like I was meeting up with old friends while reading Moon Called. Mercy is a strong character who can be stubborn, but she has a softer side to her as well. Briggs lets us see both sides of Mercy throughout the book, making her a very well-rounded character. Her history with the werewolves and how that still affects her give Mercy weight – she has a personal history that is part of the story. I get frustrated reading books where a character’s history is used as a simple plot device and never seems to impact how they respond to people and situations. We’re all the product of our experiences and it’s great to see a character that encompasses that. All of the secondary characters Mercy interacts with are similarly rounded out and this makes the world of Moon Called a rich and interesting one.
Moon Called is a great read that will delight fans of urban fantasy and probably win the genre some new ones. What are you waiting for – go and check it out.(less)
Personally I love those gems you find when you stumble across a book that looks interesting and decide to give it a...moreReview from my blog The Word Fiend.
Personally I love those gems you find when you stumble across a book that looks interesting and decide to give it a chance. While browsing the shelves of one of my local bookshops Love You to Death & High Stakes caught my eye and boy am I glad I decided to take a chance on it. This is definitely one of my gems.
The cover design for Love You to Death & High Stakes is quite simple, but the model’s piercing green eye and no-nonsense expression draw you in and the lettering stands out nicely in white and red against the black background. It’s a case of less-is-more with this cover and I can’t picture a design that would have worked better for the book.
I have to be honest and admit that the fact that Meg Cabot is well-known for The Princess Diaries series did make me wary when I started this book. But I have to eat a big serving of humble-pie here – Meg Cabot knows what she’s doing and delivers a great paranormal read for young adults.
Cabot’s writing is slick and pleasant to read, with the story flowing well from beginning to end in both books. The first book, Love You to Death, doesn’t read like the first in a series. The characters and the world seem so well-established that I could fall right into the story without having to take time to find my feet. The ease of reading follows into the second book, High Stakes, and the story doesn’t need time to gather momentum again, but kicks off almost straight into the action I’d come to expect.
Cabot’s characters are a lot of fun and Suze Simon is probably one of my favourite heroines in the young adult genre. She’s feisty and tends to act before she thinks, but Cabot lets us see behind the tough-as-nails exterior to the sixteen-year-old who just wants to be normal and go on a date for once in her life. Instead she’s stuck with ghosts and their problems. It makes for an interesting balancing act between her everyday life and her role as Mediator.
If you haven’t read Meg Cabot’s Mediator series I’d definitely recommend you give them a try. Who knows, maybe you’ll find your own gem.(less)
My Life As A White Trash Zombie is zombielicious! Both entertaining and funny Diana Rowland may have converted me t...moreReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
My Life As A White Trash Zombie is zombielicious! Both entertaining and funny Diana Rowland may have converted me to the zombie cause! I’m sure Ashley over at The Bookish Brunette will be so proud.
Bear with me while I gush about this fantastic cover – it really is one of the best I have seen this year and reflects the humour of the book beautifully. Angel’s haircut, piercings and the cigarette loosely held between her lips scream white trash. Then there’s the blood and gore dripping from her chin and the gorgeous detail of a tattoo proclaiming I Love Brains that just bring it all together. The artist, Dan Dos Santos, has created the perfect image for the book.
Diana Rowland’s writing is uncluttered and easy to read – leaving you to enjoy the story. And I really did enjoy this story! The zombies in My Life As A White Trash Zombie aren’t quite your classic shambling undead. Rowland has stuck with the need for human brains, but her zombies are more full of life (if you can excuse the term) than you may expect. I loved it! My only comment on the plot itself is that the murder investigation felt very secondary to Angel learning about her new “situation” until the end of the book. I would have liked to have seen Angel being more involved throughout the investigation so that the story shifts more easily into the climax.
Angel Crawford really is white trash and she makes no apologies for the fact. I really liked Angel and was rooting for her from early into the book. Although she hasn’t had the easiest life she makes no excuses for her own stupid decisions and mistakes. And I can respect that. I really enjoyed watching Angel get her life back together and discover that she does deserve better than she settles for. Plus she has a great sense of humour.
My Life As A White Trash Zombie will most definitely entertain you and I have one thing to say to Diana Rowland – more please! (less)
I believe that there is a lot of writing talent in South Africa, so I'm always on the lookout for somethi...moreReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
I believe that there is a lot of writing talent in South Africa, so I'm always on the lookout for something new and interesting to read from local authors. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when I first met Carlyle Labuschagne on Twitter and heard about the book she was writing, The Broken Destiny. A sci-fi YA novel written by a local author – I leapt at the chance to get my hands on a copy.
The real treasure in this debut novel is the world that Carlyle has created. She has taken elements of sci-fi, mixed in some fantasy themes and added a sprinkling of mythology to flavour. As a result The Broken Destiny has a rich and textured landscape and history that supports the characters and the plot. I have to take my hat off to Carlyle for this achievement – fantasy and sci-fi books come alive when they have a unique world and setting and she has managed to pull this off with the ease of a seasoned writer.
One aspect of the world that I want to highlight is Carlyle's inclusion of the Zulu people in her story. I loved the nod to African culture and the slightly exotic feel they give to the book for international readers.
The Broken Destiny is a book about change and finding our place in the world. The story follows Ava, one of the third generation Broken living on Poseidon after the destruction of Earth. I have very mixed feelings about Ava, especially as she is the central character in The Broken Destiny. Her fear and confusion as unknown forces start to affect her life are effective tools to draw the reader in and engage them in the story. But I found Ava to be very self-centred which detracted from my enjoyment of the book. In fact, it was often the secondary characters who kept me wanting to read more. There is a shift in Ava's character by the end of the book, but I would have liked to see that shift and the maturity and depth it gives her start happen earlier in the story. The cast of supporting characters that Carlyle has created are great fun to read about. She has made sure to give them their own unique problems, quirks and fears and they help to carry the story.
The Broken Destiny is a promising debut novel from an exciting new voice and I look forward to seeing how Carlyle's confidence and skill continue to grow. (less)
The fantasy genre was one of my first loves as a young reader – the amazing worlds and characters that th...moreReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
The fantasy genre was one of my first loves as a young reader – the amazing worlds and characters that the authors brought to life in my imagination were (and still are) wonderfully addictive. So you can understand why I leapt at the chance to read The Oathbreaker's Shadow.
The cover for The Oathbreaker's Shadow is fun and eye-catching. The bright tones of yellow, orange and red immediately bringing to mind the heat and dryness of the desert – the place where oathbreakers find themselves banished to in the world of Darhan. The figure in the foreground glares defiantly out of the cover with his blades in hand. It captures Raim's determination and strength of character as well as his martial training. The last element of the cover image is probably the most important – the out-of-focus shadow standing just behind Raim, its eyes fixed on his back. It is the accusing shadow that all oathbreakers must live with.
Apart from being a huge fantasy fan, another reason I wanted to read The Oathbreaker's Shadow was the simple, yet potentially powerful, premise behind the story. Promises. Take a moment and think about the last promise you made. It may have been something simple; like promising to pick up milk and bread on the way home from work. Or it may have been something with more weight to it; a parent promising a child that they'll be safe, a wedding vow, or a medical student swearing the Hippocratic Oath at graduation. Now imagine what it would be like if breaking your promises carried more of a punishment than being deemed untrustworthy or losing your job. What if a broken promise meant that you lost everything? Would you make them as lightly? See what I mean? A relatively simple premise, but with so much potential.
Amy McCulloch has created a vibrant and interesting world in her debut novel. Magic and intrigue abound, but those able to perform magic – the Sages – are now nothing more than legends in old stories. The only magic left in the land seems to be that which binds the people to their promises. McCulloch writes with a quiet confidence that brings her characters and world to life easily for the reader. There were some parts of the story where I felt that the plot lagged slightly – where I wanted more momentum from it. But I am confident that this is just a part of the learning curve; of an author getting to know herself and her creation. The Oathbreaker's Shadow is the first book in the series and I am very keen to see what McCulloch has in store for her readers in the next installment as her experience grows.
The characters in The Oathbreaker's Shadow are what really drive the book. But for the purposes of this review I am going to focus on the main character, Raim. I liked Raim very much – his strong sense of duty and loyalty to those he cares about are central to his character. A lot of main characters in Young Adult fiction have amazing abilities and come across as being rather egotistical as a result. Raim is a skilled warrior, but it is something that he gets very real private enjoyment out of. He doesn't swagger or boast and I found that very refreshing. Raim grows into himself as the story progresses. He is forced by his broken oath (a tantalising mystery that I can't wait to be solved in future books) to step out of his best friend's shadow and to make his own way in the world. And when he finally lets go of his stubborn belief in what he sees as the truth he really starts to develop.
Amy McCulloch's debut novel is an entertaining introduction to a fantasy world that I am looking forward to visiting again in the next book. (less)
Phoenix Rising is a cracking good read with adventure, humour and all of the gadgets and airships your Steampunk lo...moreReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
Phoenix Rising is a cracking good read with adventure, humour and all of the gadgets and airships your Steampunk loving heart could desire!
As many of you know I love book covers and Phoenix Rising's is as entertaining as the story itself. The grimy and gloomy streets of Victorian London lend a sense of mystery and a sinister air to the scene. The two models are absolutely perfect! Braun with her pistols secreted about her person and mechanised gauntlet still manages to be lovely and retains a sassy femininity. Content to remain in the background in his unruffled suit with his cup of tea, Books watches with keen eyes.
Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris have collaborated to create a vivid and entertaining Steampunk tale. Victorian England springs to life in the pages as we follow the daring team of Books and Braun on their adventures. And there are adventures aplenty in Phoenix Rising – from high-speed carriage chases to a sword fight in the middle of the opera and the nefarious plottings of a secret organisation – you will be holding on for dear life as you plunge through the pages.
For entertainment and writing I give this book 8/10, but unfortunately I ended up having to give it a 7/10 because of the really poor proofreading and editing. I realise that no-one is perfect and I can ignore the occasional typo or error, but Phoenix Rising is littered with them and they kept jolting me out of the story, lessening my overall enjoyment of the book.
Wellington Thornhill Books, Esquire, and Eliza D. Braun are two fabulous characters. They are in many ways polar opposites of each other – Braun is impetuous while Books is more circumspect, Braun acts first while Books prefers to assess the situation. You get the general idea. But it's this polarity that makes them such a great team and it also leads to many amusing arguments between them. While they may seem like quite simple/one-dimensional characters on the surface, Ballantine and Morris have given them both well-rounded personalities that motivate their actions and decisions.
Phoenix Rising is a really enjoyable Steampunk adventure that is well worth a read! (less)
Bubbles is a novel that's difficult to classify. Part murder mystery, part historical and part drama it is...moreReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
Bubbles is a novel that's difficult to classify. Part murder mystery, part historical and part drama it is Rahla Xenopoulos's re-imagining of what Bubbles Schroeder's life and death may have been like. Bubbles is a vibrantly written debut novel that holds the promise of a great career for Xenopoulos.
The cover design for Bubbles is delightful. The platinum blonde glamour girl on the cover looks out at the reader as though she has a delicious secret to share. She immediately puts you in mind of the 40s era in which the book is set and gives you a glimpse at what Bubbles may have been like. My compliments to the team at Penguin (South Africa) for this effective and uncluttered cover design.
I had previously read (and loved) Rahla Xenopoulos’s account of her struggle with bipolar disorder in A Memoir of Love and Madness. So when I was offered the opportunity to review her debut novel I leapt at the chance. The subject of the unsolved murder of Jacoba “Bubbles” Schroeder also intrigued me.
Rahla Xenopoulos’s writing is bold and confident, effortlessly transporting the reader back in time to the South Africa of the 1930s and 1940s. From Lichtenburg, through Vereenigng, and finally to the bright lights of Johannesburg; she brings the locations and people to life, providing a colourful and nuanced background to Bubbles’ story.
Bubbles is the story of Jacoba “Bubbles” Schroeder and how she may have ended up dead at the age of eighteen. Bubbles views the world through rose-tinted glasses, believing that she will be swept off her feet by a rich gentleman one day and that all of her troubles will then vanish. Unfortunately for her, life just doesn’t work that way. Bubbles eventually finds herself in Johannesburg, where she gets taken under the wing of a middle-aged bookie, Barry. So begins her life as a “glamour girl”, with days spent at the beauty parlour and evenings spent in the company of young men. I felt very protective of Bubbles, but I also found myself wanting to grab her by the shoulders and shake some sense into her. She could be so incredibly naïve at times in a lifestyle that punishes that kind of blind faith.
Bubbles is a strong debut from a talented author and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.
In Ultraviolet R.J. Anderson has combined a fascinating neurological condition with a murder mystery – the result i...moreReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
In Ultraviolet R.J. Anderson has combined a fascinating neurological condition with a murder mystery – the result is an interesting book that offers something different in the YA market.
The thing I like most about Ultraviolet’s cover is the purple shading and foil effect that’s been used. It really does capture some of how Alison sees the world around her. This visual idea of altered perception is reinforced by the image of the girl with the wild hair. Most photos are taken on a level with the subject, but here the girl is viewed from slightly below and to the side. It creates a level of disconnect with her that ties into Alison’s story. While this isn’t the prettiest cover, I do like how it links to the story.
Ultraviolet is the first R.J. Anderson book I’ve read, so I can’t compare it to any of her earlier work. I enjoyed her writing style and she conveys atmosphere and emotion very believably with her words. The story moved at a good pace and just when I thought I’d figured something out Anderson would challenge my assumptions and make me look at things from a different angle.
I must admit that I have a fascination with books set in mental institutions. I think part of it is the glimpse into a world that most of us will never see or understand. But I also find the characters, whether fictional or based on fact, to be intriguing and often more than a little unsettling. Pine Hills, the fictional psychiatric institute that Anderson has created, is an interesting setting. Anderson has populated it with a cast of well fleshed out characters that give it a life of its own. During her time there Alison learns a lot about herself and begins to heal.
Alison has synesthesia. It’s a neurological phenomenon where a person’s senses are interconnected so that more than one sense responds to the same stimulus. Examples would be someone seeing numbers and letters as colours or being able to taste sounds. Anderson’s use of words and descriptions allow the reader to step into Alison’s world and see through her eyes. Through flashbacks and memories we are given insights into events in her past that have contributed to her problems. These flashbacks are woven into the narrative so that they are part of the story. Alison is estranged from her mother and feels that she has abandoned her because she is different. I thought that Anderson handled this difficult relationship very well. When Alison meets Faraday, a visiting neuropsychologist, she finally finds someone who helps her to see the truth about what makes her different. The quietly growing attraction between them was refreshing.
My only problem with Ultraviolet was the ending. I don’t believe in spoilers, so I’m only going to say that towards the end the plot took a serious left turn. The story suddenly became something else entirely and there hadn’t really been much of a build up to it. The two pieces didn’t seem to fit together very well. I did manage to adapt once I got over the initial bump, but I never relaxed back into the story totally.
Ultraviolet is an interesting YA novel that will open your eyes to new things. I would have liked to see the ending handled differently, but overall the book is worth a read. (less)
In The Demonologist, Andrew Pyper has created a book laced with currents of menace and mystery that will h...moreReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
In The Demonologist, Andrew Pyper has created a book laced with currents of menace and mystery that will have you turning the pages late into the night to find out what happens next, while at the same time hoping that you'll never know.
I love the cover art for this particular edition. The view of Venice in brilliant shades of blue with the sin glinting off of the famous buildings and gondolas seems idyllic. It's only when you look closer that the peace of the scene is shattered. First, there is the tiny black figure in the top right of the scene falling with arms outstretched towards the waiting water. And then in the bottom right of the scene the shifting lines of the currents in the canal are transformed into a demonic visage, waiting for the falling figure with mouth wide open. The cover depicts the start of Professor Ullman's journey as his daughter falls towards the Grand Canal. But it is also symbolic of the novel as a whole – sometimes you need to look closer to see the whole picture.
The Demonologist is the first of Andrew Pyper's books that I have read and I was impressed by his ability to draw the reader into the story and the paranormal world he has envisaged. This is horror the way I enjoy it – a building sense of wrongness and menace that doesn't rely on cheap tricks to affect the reader. Rather, as the story progresses the reader becomes so immersed in it that the horror and unease build like a rising tide and sweeps them along in its wake.
There are numerous references to John Milton's Paradise Lost throughout the book, but it is not necessary for you to have read this epic poem to understand the story. All the information you need is relayed seamlessly through the main character, Professor David Ullman, without muddying the story with obscure references and academic discussions. Paradise Lost chronicles the fall of Lucifer and the rebel angels as well as that of man. Themes from the poem are woven through the book and add depth to the story.
David Ullman is an academic. An English professor who specialises in literature dealing with the demonic and the divine, with a specific interest in Milton's Paradise Lost. A demonologist. Yet he doesn't believe in any of it.
“The mind is its own place, and in it self Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”
These words, as spoken by Lucifer in Paradise Lost, resonate with him as he believes that good and evil are purely man-made distinctions. This contradiction between knowledge and belief makes David an intriguing character. And it is this contradiction that Pyper explores as he takes David on his own journey through hell – and, like all mythological heroes who take this journey, he is transformed by it.
The two other characters who play an important role on David's journey and subsequent transformation are his daughter Tess and his friend O'Brien. Tess, while not physically present through most of the book, is a central figure in the narrative. Her disappearance signals the start of David's journey and she is his lodestone as he navigates his way through a world of myth brought to life. When Dante descended into hell in his The Divine Comedy he was accompanied by a guide, Virgil. In much the same way O'Brien is the voice of reason in David's unravelling reality. She is a strong presence who centres him and forces him to look deeper. To question.
The Demonologist is an unnerving and well written book that will make you want to sleep with the lights on long after you've finished reading it.(less)
Die For Me is a deceptively gentle story that still packs quite a punch. The world and mythology that Amy Plum has...moreReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
Die For Me is a deceptively gentle story that still packs quite a punch. The world and mythology that Amy Plum has created is reason enough for me to recommend this book.
Die For Me's cover is a bit like the book itself – simultaneously soft and arresting. The sepia-toned backdrop of Paris's rooftops and the instantly recognisable Eiffel Tower evoke a sense of history. The model stands out against this scene with her pale skin and beautiful red dress. But it's the raised vine decorations that I find the most interesting. They are flowery and delicate, but they are also wrapped around the model, holding and binding her to the scene. For me this is a stunning visual metaphor for love – it brings lightness to our lives, but binds us tightly to those we care for.
Amy Plum has done a great job building an interesting world full of its own mythology and intrigue. Die For Me is her debut novel, but it is the start of a trilogy that will suck readers right in. Some people have commented that Die For Me starts quite slowly and that they were impatient for things to happen. I enjoyed the slower pacing of the story as a change from more high-action YA reads. When we meet her Kate is still reeling from the loss of her parents and it would have seemed false to me for her to have just leapt straight into a new life and a new romance. I enjoyed the fact that Amy Plum gave Kate time to start healing before the action and adventure kicked-off. Paris is the city of love and is a gorgeous backdrop to the romance and intrigue of Die For Me. Plum introduces the reader to a different side of the city, away from the tourist hot-spots and I loved it.
Kate is the heroine of Die For Me and I really like her. Not only does she often have her head stuck in a book, but her love of art and museums is contagious. Kate is not a character who kicks butt and takes names, but she has her own strengths and these have a real impact on the story. Watching her blossom from a devastated young girl to a self-assured women through the book was a treat. Her romance with Vincent is well handled. It starts out softly and builds in intensity in a way that I'm sure has many readers falling in love along with Kate. Vincent has an old world charm about him that I immediately liked.
Die For Me is a fun, engaging YA read that will win Amy Plum legions of fans. I'm looking forward to the next instalment!(less)
The opening chapters of this debut novel won Michéle Rowe the 2011 CWA (Crime Writers Association) Debut D...moreReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
The opening chapters of this debut novel won Michéle Rowe the 2011 CWA (Crime Writers Association) Debut Dagger Award and I can see why. This is crime writing just the way I like it – smart, pacy and character-driven.
The cover for What Hidden Lies is very much in line with the current style in crime fiction – moody with large print that catches the eye. The image of a lone figure walking along a beach with dark clouds hovering above has been chosen to suit the story. It could represent either Persy or Marge in their journey to find a killer – both fiercely independent and isolated from those around them. The Penguin (South Africa) design team has done a great job with this cover.
What Hidden Lies is Michéle Rowe's debut novel, but it suffers from very few of the signs of an author trying to find her feet in a new book. Rowe's background is in scriptwriting and I think that this has given her a great advantage when diving into the field of novel writing. Rowe's writing style is assured and she makes great use of the peripheral characters and side-plots to add interest and depth to the central murder investigation. What Hidden Lies is well-paced and – like all good crime fiction – has the reader trying to solve the case right along with the characters. The Cape Town setting – mainly centred around Noordhoek, Fish Hoek and surrounding areas – is brought to life with vivid description and Rowe has populated her story with an eclectic cast of characters who bring energy to the scenes.
All of the characters in What Hidden Lies have interesting backstories that shape their view of the world and their decisions. The fact that this level of character development isn't limited to the central characters is something that I must applaud the author for. It takes a lot of work and it has paid off in making the interactions between the characters more engaging and it allows for Rowe to introduce some great red herrings into the plot to keep the reader engaged. The two central characters – Detective Persy Jones and Marge Labuschagne – act as interesting foils for each other. Both are fiercely independent and determined to be taken seriously in their lives, but both are also incredibly isolated and lonely. I think it's these similarities that cause the initial sparks to fly in their relationship, but they do ultimately find a grudging respect for each other which I will be interested to see develop in further books.
Michéle Rowe has produced a great debut novel with What Hidden Lies and I am looking forward to following her writing career as it develops. Things can only keep getting better and that makes this reader very happy. (less)
As some of you may know, I am a HUGE fan of angels. I love books about them, so I was really excited when I found A...moreReview from my blog The Word Fiend.
As some of you may know, I am a HUGE fan of angels. I love books about them, so I was really excited when I found Angelology. It sounded like it was right up my alley. Not only was it about angelic mythology, but it also promised mystery and intrigue as added bonuses!
I love this particular cover of Angelology with the angel in shadow except for its wings and a glimpse of its hair. It’s an image that is enticing – there’s a mystery waiting to be revealed. But I must admit that I have been very impressed with all of the covers for this book that I have seen.
With all of this going for it I desperately wanted to love Angelology, but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way.
Angelology is divided into four parts. The first three are titled after the three spheres (groups) that scholars have divided the angelic hierarchy into. The fourth part represents the coming together of these spheres to form the heavenly choir. I rather liked this arrangement because it links in with the main subject of the book.
One of my main problems with Angelology was the pacing. The story has the potential to be a thrilling page-turner, but Trussoni never capitalised on it. There is a lot of repetition of the history behind the characters and the artefacts that they are seeking, but when it comes time for the characters to act the whole climax that has been laboriously built up to is over in a page or two. It was unbelievably frustrating.
One thing I must credit Trussoni with is the amount of research and work she has obviously put into Angelology. The histories of her characters have been well thought out and built. But that really is no excuse for the amount of time she lavishes on these backstories to the detriment of the plot.
As a main character Evangeline falls short of the mark. I like her well enough, but she is pretty incidental to the story for the first half which is never a good sign. It is only towards the end of the book that she stops being dragged along by events and decides to take action. I was more interested and captivated by Evangeline’s grandmother, Gabriella, who is a secondary character. Trussoni’s characters would benefit from being allowed to interact and change the world they are in rather than reacting to whatever the plot throws them.
The angels in Angelology are mainly Nephilim, the offspring of angels and human women. Trussoni has stuck to the accepted theories about how Nephilim came to be on this earth, but she works it into her story well. I enjoyed the society she created for the Nephilim. The parts of Angelology where she discusses their history and legends are some of the more engaging sections. I also liked how she applies modern scientific ideas such as genetics to the angelologists’ studies of the Nephilim.
Angelology is a debut that has a great idea behind it. While it doesn’t quite live up to its promise it is not a bad book and I will probably be picking up the sequel, Angelopolis, in 2012 to see where the story goes.(less)
Review: I knew I had to read this book the second I saw the title. I loved the idea of a nerd as the heroin...moreReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
Review: I knew I had to read this book the second I saw the title. I loved the idea of a nerd as the heroine in a romance novel and the play on the famous Marilyn Monroe movie is a nice touch. Gentlemen Prefer Nerds lived up to the promise of its title and I was thoroughly charmed by this light-hearted adventure into the world of jewel thieves and cons.
The bright blue and yellow used for Gentlemen Prefer Nerds' cover compliment each other nicely and serve to effectively draw the readers attention. If I was browsing in my local bookshop I would definitely stop to pick it up. The male model has a taunting half-smile on his face, as if he knows more than he's letting on and is a perfect fit for how I pictured Fabian. The female model isn't quite how I imagined Maddie, but with her glasses, hair pulled back into a sensible ponytail and shy stance she does capture some of Maddie's nerd-factor. The pink heart-shaped diamond glittering next to the title is the valuable gem that puts the whole story in motion. This is a fun and effective cover and I must compliment the design team at Carina Press.
Gentlemen Prefer Nerds was a delight to read. Joan Kilby writes well, bringing her characters to immediate life on the pages. The story progresses at an entertaining pace with action and drama interspersed with humour to keep the story in balance. One great example of this humour is when, during a dramatic helicopter escape from the police, Maddie stops and stubbornly refuses to abandon her cat, forcing Fabian to perform an impressive feline rescue. Kilby skilfully uses these moments to give us a better understanding of the characters' histories and personalities.
Maddie is a fabulous heroine. Brilliant and passionate about jewels she lives a rather boring life where she lives vicariously through her books – picturing herself as the daring heroine who saves the day. It was interesting to see how she reacts when she is forced into new and dangerous situations in real life. Maddie really blossoms in the book. Fabian is a mystery when we first meet him, but we slowly learn more about the gorgeous Englishman as the story unfolds. I liked the respect he has for Maddie and her abilities and the quiet strength coiled in him. The chemistry between Maddie and Fabian sizzles through the pages of Gentlemen Prefer Nerds. In fact my only problem with the book was that when they finally made love it wasn't the exciting event that all of the chemistry and tension had been building towards. It felt like a bit of a let down.
Gentlemen Prefer Nerds is a fun, entertaining read that will have you glued to the pages. Definitely worth reading. (less)
I have to admit that fairies have never been one of my favourite supernatural races. But Karen Mahoney has given th...moreReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
I have to admit that fairies have never been one of my favourite supernatural races. But Karen Mahoney has given them extra appeal with her world of alchemists and fairies.
I picked up The Iron Witch because its cover caught my attention. The bronze, raised filigree design is eye-catching and frames the model, focusing attention on her. The model’s pose is defensive and I immediately wanted to reach into the cover to comfort her. The finer detail of the iron tattoos on the model’s arms echoes the design of the border, linking the whole design together. The design team at Corgi have done a great job with this cover.
The Iron Witch is Karen Mahoney’s debut novel and heralds the arrival of a new talent on the Young Adult scene. Mahoney’s writing flows well and I especially enjoyed her ability to convey emotion subtly through a scene. The Iron Witch blends alchemy and fairy lore, resulting in a paranormal tale with a hint of steampunk. This blend provides a solid bed for Mahoney to build her world on and it’s a world that she has obviously put a lot of thought into. The story benefits from having this world to build on and I look forward to exploring it with Donna in future books.
Watching Donna discover her inner strength through the story was a real treat for me. I empathised with her from the start and silently cheered for her as she began to grow into herself. The friendship between Donna and Navin feels genuine and I loved that it survives Navin’s introduction to the less normal side of Donna’s life. It bothers me that in many YA books, once the paranormal world is exposed the “normal” people get sidelined. There is a romantic interest in The Iron Witch in the form of Xan – who seems as damaged as Donna and can understand her.
The Iron Witch is an engaging debut from an author who looks set to make her mark on the YA genre. (less)
Dark Poppy's Demise is S.A. Partridge's third novel for young adults and firmly cements her place as an author to w...more Review from my blog: The Word Fiend
Dark Poppy's Demise is S.A. Partridge's third novel for young adults and firmly cements her place as an author to watch.
The cover for Dark Poppy's Demise is quite simple, but it's the fear on the model's face that draws the eye and immediately makes you want to know what caused it. It's an invitation to open the book and see for yourself.
This is the first of S.A. Partridge's books that I have read and I was very impressed with her writing. She builds atmosphere and tension especially well and this adds to the drama of the story to produce a thrilling read. I found the premise behind Dark Poppy's Demise especially relevant to today's young adults who conduct a lot of their social lives online via Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. It's the fact that I could easily imagine this situation happening that makes this story especially chilling.
Jenna is a selfish drama queen. There really is no other way to describe her. But it is a testament to the story and the quality of S.A. Partridge's writing that I could easily empathise with her and, despite her irritating tendencies, I came to like her and was rooting for her by the end of the book. Jenna has real flaws and a difficult home life – these made her more real in my eyes and also served to increase the tension because I became invested in her well-being. I must mention Jenna's brother Ian because he was a very vividly drawn character and I liked the interaction between the siblings.
Dark Poppy's Demise is a well written thriller from a talented South African author and is well worth a read. (less)
There has been a lot of hype surrounding Divergent in the publishing and book blogging world. From the moment I fir...more Review from my blog: The Word Fiend
There has been a lot of hype surrounding Divergent in the publishing and book blogging world. From the moment I first heard about it I developed a huge book crush. But like all crushes, there is the fear that when we finally meet the object of our affection that the reality may not live up to our expectations. Veronica Roth has not disappointed me with her debut. Divergent is an exciting, addictive read that will pull you into its pages and release you breathless and begging for more.
The cover for Divergent is like the book: bold and eye-catching. The reflective sheen makes the colours glint and gives the circle of flame, the symbol for the Dauntless, a life of its own. It's this symbol that catches the eye and pulls you into the image. The heavy clouds hovering over the city are an effective metaphor for the changes and danger threatening the perfect society below.
Divergent is Veronica Roth's debut novel – and if this is how she writes starting out I can only see great things in her future. Roth writes with confidence and skill and this lifts her already great idea and moulds it into a brilliant read. The pacing was spot-on – with natural dips and peaks to engage the reader and allow them to catch their breath before the next action-packed scene. At no point did I get the urge to rush through the quieter sections to get to the next exciting moment. This is because every scene helps to tell the story and I was more than happy to sit back and let Roth guide me through her world and the book.
The dystopian world that Roth has created in Divergent is engaging and well thought out. Society is split into five factions: Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (friendship/harmony), Candor (honesty), Dauntless (fearless/undaunted) and Erudite (scholarly) that work in their specialised areas to keep the world as a whole running smoothly. When they turn sixteen, people choose which faction they will spend the rest of their lives in – not always the faction they were born into. I loved the factions and the thought that Roth has put into what each faction values and cultivates in its members. The differences in the factions are very obvious in the initiates who have joined a faction they were not born into. Roth uses this to great advantage to highlight these differences.
Tris is the heroine in Divergent. She is tough, kick-ass and smart – all things I love in a protagonist. Being a part of Tris's journey was exciting and there is a definite character growth that takes place through the book. I was rooting for her from page one. Four is also a complex, three-dimensional character and I must confess to having a mild character crush on him. The building relationship brings out their strengths and showed them both to be interesting and fully formed characters.
Divergent is a thrilling read and I would gladly recommend it to anyone who enjoys an intelligent and entertaining story. (less)
Lauren Beukes has long been on my list of local authors to read. But it took reading an interview with her...moreReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
Lauren Beukes has long been on my list of local authors to read. But it took reading an interview with her about her new book, The Shining Girls, to make me realise that I couldn’t wait a moment longer to explore this imaginative writer’s work. I have four words for you that will no doubt spark a similar response: time travelling serial killer.
The cover for The Shining Girls is a collage of photographs that invokes a sense of mystery. The images conjure a feeling of the different time periods visited in the book. For me they also represent how seemingly disjointed moments can come together to form a coherent whole; as Kirby’s investigation into Harper’s crimes does.
Time travel is difficult to write. The different events and locations scattered across various years can get confusing and authors often make mistakes with their continuity. I must tip my hat to Lauren Beukes – she has handled the time travel aspect of her story masterfully. The changes in setting and time flowed as a natural part of the story. Each setting has its own unique feel that allows the reader to instinctively know where in the timeline they find themselves. From the gritty feel of ‘20s and ‘30s Chicago to the more familiar ‘90s – each location springs to vivid life in the pages of The Shining Girls.
Kirby is an interesting heroine. Her world is falling apart around her and she doesn’t know what to do about it. The only anchor she has is her determination to find the man who nearly killed her. I really liked that Kirby isn’t your typical ‘damsel in distress’. Here is a smart girl whose already chaotic life (thanks to her free-spirited and sometimes absent mother) has been torn apart. But she is determined to do something about it. One could argue that Kirby’s obsession with the man who attacked her is at least partly to blame for her situation and I appreciate that Beukes allows the reader to entertain this idea. She has created a complex and driven heroine to drive her story forward and it works. The reader may be wary of Kirby’s motivations, but you want to know where her path will lead.
Harper, the villain of the piece, is a particularly nasty character. Upon discovering the house which allows him to move through time he sets out to find and kill his ‘shining girls’, women who have a particular strength of spirit about them. He never gives a reason for his crimes or tries to explain them away and this, as far as I’m concerned, makes him a truly interesting villain. Harper is just bad. Beukes makes no excuses for it. It makes him unpredictable and adds to the feeling of menace he evokes. I especially liked the detail of Harper leaving items from different times at the scenes of his crimes. It serves as a link between the women across the years.
The Shining Girls is a well written and entertaining thriller with a skilfully handled time travel element adding to the mystery. Recommended reading.
The bouquet I would make to describe my reaction to The Language of Flowers would include Apple Blossom (preference...moreReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
The bouquet I would make to describe my reaction to The Language of Flowers would include Apple Blossom (preference), Everlasting Pea (lasting pleasure), Bouvardia (enthusiasm) and Lisianthus (appreciation). Vanessa Diffenbaugh has created an extraordinary book that captivated me and still lingers in my thoughts almost two weeks after I finished it.
The Language of Flowers is Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s debut novel and I was blown away by the maturity of her writing, by the bravery of choosing an imperfect and damaged heroine and by the smooth flow of the story. I believe that Vanessa Diffenbaugh has a long and interesting writing career ahead if her and I look forward to following her progress.
I first heard about the Victorian language of flowers when I was in primary school and I remember thinking that it sounded very mysterious and that it was a bit like sending coded messages to the one you loved. I wasn’t too far off.
Victoria Jones is a damaged young girl who can’t, or won’t, let herself connect to the world around her except through the medium of flowers and their meanings. Through Victoria’s eyes you will come to appreciate the subtlety and nuances of the language of flowers. It’s this window into Victoria’s mind that really allows the reader to connect with her and understand what she feels, despite her trying to hide it.
The Language of Flowers is split into four parts; each named for a flower or a particular flower’s meaning. These flowers and their meanings serve as the underlying theme for that part of the story and I loved how Diffenbaugh brings Victoria’s precious language of flowers into every aspect of her story.
Victoria’s life has not been an easy one; abandoned as a baby, shuttled around the foster care system and forced to look out for herself. But Vanessa Diffenbaugh doesn’t place the blame solely on circumstances. Victoria’s life is the product of neglect, bad luck and her own bad choices. Through the story Victoria is forced to take some of the responsibility for herself and her own decisions. The Language of Flowers alternates between the present and eight years ago, when Victoria feels she last had a real chance at happiness. These two separate tales combine to tell Victoria’s story and paint a complex and detailed picture of her character and her life.
But it’s through her connection to other people that Victoria slowly begins to heal and learn to take part in the world around her. Grant and Elizabeth are two lovely characters who play such an important role in Victoria’s life. Diffenbaugh has given them their own complex stories and pasts to add flavour and depth to the story. Though they help Victoria, they are also helped by knowing her. It’s this interconnectedness of the characters that makes The Language of Flowers such a fulfilling read.
The Language of Flowers is a beautiful piece of storytelling. (less)
Set in Victorian England, Haunting Violet is alive with atmosphere and intrigue. I was sucked into the story from t...moreReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
Set in Victorian England, Haunting Violet is alive with atmosphere and intrigue. I was sucked into the story from the first page and loved the time I spent there!
The cover for Haunting Violet strikes the right tone for the book – it is mysterious and slightly unsettling, helping to engage the reader before they have even turned a page. The out-of-focus, misty background in shades of purple frames the lonely figure of the girl dressed all in black, setting her apart from the scene in the same way that Violet begins to feel.
This is the first of Alyxandra Harvey’s books that I have read and I was very impressed with her writing. She evokes settings and characters beautifully – two things I especially enjoy reading. Haunting Violet is set in 1872 when Spiritualism was enjoying great popularity in England, especially amongst the upper classes. I have always been fascinated with the Spiritualist movement in the Victorian era with the grainy black and white images of mediums and the sprits they communicated with firing my imagination. It’s an unusual setting for a YA novel, but Harvey uses it to great effect in Haunting Violet. I especially appreciated the irony of a girl involved in her mother’s fake séances being able to communicate with the dead! Harvey transports the reader into the past effortlessly and her use of the speech patterns and social protocols of the time immersed me in the story. Her writing appears effortless and that speaks to her skill as an author.
As I have already mentioned, Alyxandra Harvey has created wonderfully engaging characters to populate her story. Violet Willoughby is the main character in Haunting Violet and while she is not as sassy as some of the heroines we see in YA novels, she has a great inner strength that shines through in the story. Violet is more quietly rebellious – trying to carve out her own path despite the iron-grip her mother maintains on her life. There is a definite growth in Violet’s character through the book and I loved watching it.
Alyxandra Harvey has created a vibrant, engaging paranormal tale in Haunting Violet and I want more! (less)
Angelfire introduces us to a world of reapers, epic sword fights and high school. C.A. Moulton’s debut novel is act...moreReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
Angelfire introduces us to a world of reapers, epic sword fights and high school. C.A. Moulton’s debut novel is action-packed and entertaining. Plus there are angels, so you know I’m happy.
Angelfire’s cover is arresting. It may not be very colourful, but it is a detailed and striking image. I love the model’s pose – she is relaxed, but alert and as Ellie explores who she is, or was, some of this poise and readiness starts to rise to the surface. The swirling fog that obscures most of the background is a great visual metaphor for Ellie’s memories and how they often seem just out of her reach. If you get your hands on a copy of Angelfire just take a moment to explore the cover – it deserves it.
The world that C.A. Moulton has created is one I enjoyed exploring and I’d happily return to it. In the shadows lurk the reapers. Banish all images of figures armed with scythes – it’s not quite that simple. Reapers come in a number of forms and can be either angelic or demonic. The opposing sides have been at war for centuries. Angelfire has a rich and interesting world that makes for a fun read.
While I loved the idea behind Angelfire I would have liked to see better pacing in the story. The book seemed to swing between two extremes: intense action or calmness. I believe that a story should have pacing that ebbs and flows, but in Angelfire it is all or nothing. I think that this could have been balanced with the inclusion of some less climactic, but still exciting scenes.
Ellie and Will are the main characters in Angelfire and I liked them both. I really appreciated the fact that Ellie has a whole life that doesn’t stop happening just because she discovers the paranormal. She still has to deal with her parents, school and try to see her friends. It is a battle, but these aspects of her life don’t just stop happening. Ellie handles the new revelations about herself and her life in a believable way and that endeared her to me. Plus she is pretty hardcore in a fight! Will is quickly going to become a popular book-crush and with good reason. He can be too serious at times, but as the book progresses Ellie manages to chip away some of his reserve. They have a great romance that doesn’t feel rushed, although the relationship isn’t going to be simple.
C.A. Moulton has created an exciting debut novel that will have readers hooked and wanting more.(less)