Becca Fitzpatrick has created a vibrant world where the angelic and the fallen move among unaware mortals. The writReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
Becca Fitzpatrick has created a vibrant world where the angelic and the fallen move among unaware mortals. The writing in this book is solid and her descriptions are well written. I enjoyed the fact that she gave me enough information to know what was going on, but I never felt swamped with details. It’s a skill I admire in an author. The pacing of the story is well-controlled; with the increasingly terrifying and strange events in Nora’s life building to a satisfying climax. I could feel Nora’s anxiety and terror build through the story and Fitzpatrick kept me guessing right up until the end.
I have to admit that I was disappointed with the characters though. I understand that Nora is only sixteen, but she seemed a bit naïve at times in her approach to both people and her investigation. I would have liked to see her taking control of her life and her decisions. The character of Vee, Nora’s best friend, comes across as very shallow and self-centred where I would have imagined her to be more supportive. I know that some of this was for the sake of the story, but I feel that it should have been more balanced. Despite the fact that Patch is the character we know the least about, he is the more interesting character in the story. I would have liked to see more growth of him as a character through the book.
I am a huge fan of angels and the mythology surrounding them, which this book is based on. I had no problem following the premise of the story and I don’t think that any readers would. But I did feel that Fitzpatrick could have done more to incorporate the mythology into the story. For example, there are a number of references to avenging angels in the book and it would have been interesting to have met them or seen them at work. I think that Fitzpatrick has missed out on a great opportunity to give the world she has created more of a foundation to build on. But I’ll be interested to see what she does with the sequel, Crescendo.
Overall this was an entertaining read, but certain elements could have been improved. ...more
Diana Wynne Jones has been described by Neil Gaiman as “The best children’s writer of the last 40 years” (Observer)Review from my blog: The Word Fiend
Diana Wynne Jones has been described by Neil Gaiman as “The best children’s writer of the last 40 years” (Observer) and I think he may be onto something there. This is only the second book I have read by Diana Wynne Jones, but I have loved both of them. She’s definitely an author worth reading if you enjoy charming and humorous fantasy.
I really enjoyed the plot of this novel. It is quite straightforward, but the story is told so well that it would have been a shame to complicate things any more. Enchanted Glass is really more about the characters than about what happens to them and the straightforward plot design is perfectly suited to this kind of story. It was quite refreshing, for a change, to read a book that didn't have complicated subplots to keep track of. But don't let this make you assume that Enchanted Glass is an overly simple book. It isn't. The plot may be straightforward, but the story is well told and will appeal to readers both young and old. At its heart, this book is about finding where you belong and Wynne Jones has woven a magical tale around this central theme.
Enchanted Glass is populated by truly fabulous characters. There is Andrew Hope, whose absent-minded nature results in the whole village calling him 'Professor'. Despite his unassuming exterior, there is strength in Andrew which we first catch a glimpse of in his battle of wills with Mrs Stock, the housekeeper. As the story progresses, that strength becomes more evident and it was great to watch the growth in this character. The household staff, Mr Stock and Mrs Stock (no relation), are two more of the great personalities to be found in Enchanted Glass. Mrs Stock's battles with Andrew over the furniture placement and Mr Stock's determination to grow the biggest vegetables ever seen are delightful and add colour and personality to the book. Then there is Susan, Andrew's love interest, who uses the horse racing results as an oracle. I could wax lyrical about all of the characters, but I don't like to spoil books and I think that there is great pleasure to be had in meeting them for the first time yourself.
Enchanted Glass is a magical tale about finding your place in the world and I would recommend it to anyone without a moment's hesitation. ...more
In my experience, a book like this, with its tongue-in-cheek humour and colourful rewriting of history, will be eitReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
In my experience, a book like this, with its tongue-in-cheek humour and colourful rewriting of history, will be either brilliant or a complete waste of time. Fortunately for me this one turned out to be the former. What I discovered was an entertaining page-turner that had me hooked from the first word.
I came across Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter while browsing the shelves of my local bookshop and I fell in love with the cover the moment I saw it. The iconic image of Victoria in her mourning dress with the addition of a bloody axe in one hand and a decapitated head in the other is priceless. And if there was ever any doubt that I had to own this book it was banished by the tagline: She loved her country. She hated zombies.
The book follows a young Victoria (despite what the cover image may suggest) from the moment she becomes queen at the tender age of eighteen, through her engagement and marriage to Prince Albert and the birth of their first two children. Moorat has stayed quite close to the actual events in Victoria’s life while throwing in zombies, demons and the occasional werewolf.
I sometimes find that in books based on historical fact (however loosely) the characters derived from real people can be flat or wooden. But I was pleased to see that this was not the case here. Victoria is a strong-willed character and Moorat does a good job of giving her a very real personality that a modern audience can relate to. Her love for Albert burns brightly throughout this story and it helps to mould and shape the young queen. I also liked how Victoria takes the revelations of supernatural events in her stride and she adapts quickly to her new role.
Then there is the Protektorate, an elite group of Demon Hunters who defend the realm and the monarchy against demon invasion. For the demons want nothing more than to have one of their own sitting on the throne. The Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, is among their rank and they are led by the remarkable Maggie Brown who takes the young queen under her wing for training.
One of the great delights in Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter is the double act of Lord Quimby and his faithful manservant Perkins. Quimby delights in all manner of debauchery and when one of his parties doesn’t go quite according to plan he is forced to turn Perkins into a zombie to save his life. Their relationship is filled with comedy and a strange camaraderie develops between them.
The action in Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter is smoothly written, with the swordplay and daring chases described in an almost cinematic style. The scenes are paced well and they add to the enjoyment of the book.
Moorat has created an action-packed supernatural romp set against the backdrop of history and I love it....more
Lily Herne is the pen name of mother and daughter team Sarah and Savannah Lotz. This is their first book together aReview from my blog: The Word Fiend
Lily Herne is the pen name of mother and daughter team Sarah and Savannah Lotz. This is their first book together and makes for an entertaining debut.
The cover of Deadlands is what first caught my attention with its mysterious hooded figure and fog shrouded landscape. It sets the scene for this apocalyptic zombie story and the feelings of dread and uneasiness it inspires followed me into the book. I was also very excited to see a book of this kind from a South African author.
The year is 2020, ten years after the dead first started walking, and we meet the protagonist, Leletia (Lele to her friends), as she has been relocated from the farmlands (the Agriculturals) to the enclave (all that’s left of Cape Town and its suburbs). The enclave is run by the Resurrectionists, a cult that worships the mysterious Guardians who keep the walking dead under control. Herne has created a world where humans are confined to enclosed areas, the only safe zones where the zombies, called Rotters, are kept out. The press of humanity and the rising power of the Resurrectionists make for an environment where fear and suspicion are rife. It makes an interesting backdrop to Lele’s story and adds an extra dimension to the personal difficulties she encounters.
Deadlands is well-plotted, with an interesting and well-developed backstory. The writing is clean and concise and Herne does an excellent job invoking the mood of the setting. What I really liked was that although the story is filled with drama, it is well interspersed with lighter moments which reflect the character’s personalities and strength. Deadlands is peppered with pop-culture references, and while this may serve to date most books, in this case they are a poignant reminder that in many ways life stopped in 2010 when the zombies first appeared. There have been no new movies or books to influence the characters, so these references add to the story in a very effective way.
The political undertones in Deadlands are well-handled and are a reminder of some of humanity’s darker days. From the oppression of apartheid to the tragedy of the holocaust, elements of these can be identified in this book. It makes for an interesting commentary on human nature and the actions of people in positions of power.
The story is told from Lele’s perspective which allows us to experience the world in a very real way. She is a strong character and well-rounded. In fact there were times when her stubbornness made me want to kick her into action, but this makes her more real. I don’t like reading about characters who are perfect. Lele’s flaws make her more relatable and let me get involved in her story.
Lele’s family is an interesting case. She is not close to her father or stepmother, so at first they come across as uncaring characters. But as the story progresses, Lele discovers more about them and the reasons behind their actions and we learn with her. It was interesting to see this growth. One of the most poignant relationships in the book is the one between Lele and her brother Jobe. He was taken by the Guardians at the beginning of the war and returned ‘broken’. He has never grown and his mind is locked in early development. Yet Jobe is an important character and we learn a lot about Lele by seeing her interactions with him.
The children Lele meets at her new school and the Mall Rats are also nicely developed characters with their own personalities and views. That, in my mind, says a lot about the storytelling ability of an author.
My only real problem with the book is that I would have liked to see some more of the Rotters and the Guardians earlier in the story. Specifically, what makes them so feared? There are a lot of references to past events, but even one scene would have made the danger they posed more real for me.
Deadlands is an apocalyptic story with brains and heart and I would love to see more from this talented author....more
The cover art for The Thirteen Treasures is very effective and eye-catching. For those of you who follow my reviewsReview from my blog The Word Fiend.
The cover art for The Thirteen Treasures is very effective and eye-catching. For those of you who follow my reviews, you will have noticed that I almost always include a comment on the book’s cover. This is because covers are what draw me to books. A good cover will make me pick up a book to find out what it is about. I find that the cover often reflects the “personality” of the book and I have seldom been disappointed. With its vibrant red cover The Thirteen Treasures begs to be looked at more closely. The charm bracelet is beautiful with each charm seeming to have a story it wants to tell. It is a stunning cover and ties in well with the story.
The prologue immediately drew me into the story and once I was in The Thirteen Treasures didn’t let me go. Harrison’s writing is smooth and easy to read with the story flowing from start to finish. It is great to see this level of talent in a debut novel and I am really keen to see how Harrison’s writing will develop.
Following yet another incident caused by the fairies that only she can see, Tanya is bundled off to her grandmother’s house by her frustrated mother. Because, as she has learned the hard way, blaming things on fairies isn’t cute once you get past a certain age. Her grandmother’s house, Elvesden Manor, is a strange old home slowly falling in on itself and Tanya has never felt welcome there. But when she stumbles on a fifty-year-old mystery she finds herself teaming up with Fabian, the caretaker’s son, as they try to find the truth.
I enjoyed the character of Tanya. She isn’t your typical thirteen-year-old and her ability to see fairies has taught her that it’s often better to find her own solutions than to ask for help. Although this leaves her quite isolated I never had the feeling that she was depressed about it. Rather, Tanya seems to have accepted that this is the way her life is going to be. I think that this reflects an inner wisdom that I would like to see developed in the rest of the trilogy. But even though Tanya has this air of maturity about her, Harrison is careful to still let her be a thirteen. This comes across well in her relationship with Fabian. I was pleased to see this as I think it is important for younger readers (as the target audience) to be able to identify with Tanya. It also prevents The Thirteen Treasures from becoming too serious and provides some lighter moments to give the reader some relief from the suspense and tension. Tanya is a heroine that readers will easily come to love.
The supporting characters of Fabian, his father Warwick and Tanya’s grandmother, Florence, are all well written. Their interactions with each other and Tanya help to give depth and texture to the story and the world Harrison has created.
I was pleasantly surprised by the fairies in The Thirteen Treasures. I have been getting a bit bored of every book with fairies describing them as otherworldly beauties. Where are the gnomes, the goblins and all of the other less photogenic fairies we read about as children? The fairies in The Thirteen Treasures are more like it – they are sneaky, nasty and spiteful. While there are still a few good fairies, even they have rough edges in Harrison’s world. I really like that. It makes the fairy realm that Tanya sees more varied and treacherous.
I have only one real problem with The Thirteen Treasures and that is that despite the title the treasures don’t really feature in the book at all. That confused me as I was really looking forward to finding out more about them and their role in the fairy world. I would have preferred to see the treasures play a larger role in the story.
With The Thirteen Treasures Michelle Harrison has created a magical debut. With its strong characters and not-so-good fairies it is sure to entertain readers....more
Blacklands is an extraordinary accomplishment for a debut novel. It is chilling and atmospheric and populated withReview from my blog The Word Fiend.
Blacklands is an extraordinary accomplishment for a debut novel. It is chilling and atmospheric and populated with ordinary characters responding to extraordinary circumstances. It is a thriller with something more than just frights to offer the reader.
What first drew me to the book was its dark, atmospheric cover image. A view of the English moors under heavy clouds. An animal’s skull dominates the foreground, highlighted by a ray of sunlight. The tagline is what reeled me in the rest of the way. The boy wanted the truth. The killer wanted to play.
At the centre of this story is Steven Lamb, a twelve-year-old boy on a mission to save his family. Years before he was born his Uncle Billy disappeared on the short walk home from the corner shop. It is believed that he was a victim of serial child killer Arnold Avery. But Uncle Billy’s body was never found. So Steven’s grandmother still waits for her lost child to return home eighteen years later. Steven doesn’t know how or why, but he has the feeling that Uncle Billy’s disappearance has made a dramatic mark on his life. He feels that if he could only find Billy’s body that his family could become a normal one. So he digs. After three years of fruitless labour Steven decides to go straight to the person who can tell him exactly what he needs to know. He writes Arnold Avery a letter, setting in motion a dangerous game.
I freely admit to being a fan of serial killer novels. There is something about the hunt, about being safely close to such alien thoughts and deeds that appeals to me. Blacklands takes a fresh approach to this genre that results in a very interesting reading experience. Instead of following the hunt for a killer through the eyes of a pursuing detective, Blacklands offers us a glimpse of what happens to the victims’ families. It lets us see the serial killer’s impact years after the violence. In this story it is a young boy who pursues the truth, bringing him into contact with a very dangerous mind.
Steven is a difficult character to describe. He has no particularly extraordinary abilities that would allow him to stand out. He is an ordinary boy who sets out to accomplish an extraordinary task. It is his absolute conviction that if he could only find his missing uncle’s body that everything would be alright that lifts him from obscurity to become an unusual and interesting protagonist. His research into serial killers and the way he single-mindedly digs his way across Exmoor make Steven appear older than he is. But Bauer doesn’t let us forget that he is only a kid as we accompany him to school and sit down to tea with his family. I came to admire Steven for his dedication and for his longing for answers and a better life for his family.
Arnold Avery is a well-developed character in his own right. Bauer gives us glimpses into his mental landscape and history that are chilling and informative. He is not just a cardboard cut-out of a serial killer, but has clear motivations. I liked that Bauer didn’t make him embody many of the serial killer stereotypes, but that she created a unique killer as her antagonist.
Blacklands is a stunning debut novel with great atmosphere and a well paced plot. Bauer is sure to have a great career in the thriller genre if she builds on this start....more
Considering the large amount of hype surrounding The Hunger Games it seems a miracle that I had never heard of it bReview from my blog The Word Fiend.
Considering the large amount of hype surrounding The Hunger Games it seems a miracle that I had never heard of it before seeing it on the shelf in a bookstore. I think it’s a good thing that I hadn’t read the hype because it allowed me to read the book without any preconceived ideas. Which is what I prefer.
The cover design of The Hunger Games is very effective and made me pick up the book to see what it was about. The crosshairs centred on a young girl are unnerving, but it’s the look on her face that will make you stop and look at the book again. She looks straight out of the cover at you, her gaze challenging and defiant, making you want to meet her and hear her story. The fiery background behind her adds to the feeling of looming danger created by the crosshairs. The bright colour also contrasts well with the darker background of the rest of the cover and draws your eye to the girl and her gaze.
With The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins has created something unusual in the Young Adult genre. Her world of Panem is darker and more threatening than many you will come across. It is also unsettlingly real, with the distinction between good and evil less clear-cut than in most books in this genre.
The country of Panem exists where America once was. At its heart is the Capitol, the centre of power and money. The Capitol is surrounded by twelve Districts that supply the raw materials that are the source of its wealth. Every year two children, one boy and one girl, from each District are selected to take part in the Hunger Games. There, watched on screens across the country, these children, called tributes, must fight and kill until one winner is left standing. There is no option. Kill or be killed.
The idea of the Hunger Games is an unsettling one – that the tributes must fight to the death for the entertainment of others. It is a dark commentary on the world’s continuing fascination with reality TV and shows such as Survivor. It was this comparison with modern-day TV that made the premise behind The Hunger Games such an intriguing and unsettling one for me. It's a glimpse at what could pass for entertainment in the future.
At the heart of The Hunger Games is Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen-year-old girl from District 12. Katniss is an interesting character. She comes across as older than she is can seem quite hard in her attitudes, but this all stems from her life experiences. Katniss is a survivor and uses her hunting skills to keep her family alive. But when her twelve-year-old sister, Prim, is selected as tribute for this year’s Hunger Games, Katniss steps up to take her place. As we follow her through the preparations for the Games and into the arena where the Games are fought we are shown different sides to her personality. I like Katniss. She is a well-rounded character and her determination and love for her family are just two of things that will have you rooting for her throughout the book. She had me behind her from page one.
Another character who shines through in The Hunger Games is Peeta Mellark, the second tribute from District 12. Peeta is the local baker’s son and while, at first, it seems that he and Katniss have very little in common there is good chemistry between them. Peeta has a more noticeable gentleness to his character than Katniss, but as the Games progress his stronger core is revealed. Peeta and Katniss bring out different aspects of each other’s personality that make them both more appealing characters. And Peeta’s feelings for Katniss create an interesting dynamic that adds an extra layer to this rich story.
Although there is violence in The Hunger Games it is never overly graphic and serves to advance the plot. I admire Suzanne Collins for this. Considering the world she has created it could have been easy to use the violence for its sheer shock factor. But she never does. It all serves the story and that is great writing.
Suzanne Collins has created an unsettling vision of a possible future that had me turning the pages to keep up with the well-paced story. Well worth a read....more
City of Bones seems to be one of those books that people either love or hate and I’m glad that I finished reading iReview from my blog The Word Fiend.
City of Bones seems to be one of those books that people either love or hate and I’m glad that I finished reading it before seeing any of the forums or reviews. Before I continue with my review I do want to address one of the points that critics of City of Bones seem to repeatedly raise: Cassandra Clare started her writing life in the realm of fan fiction. So what? Just because someone wrote fan fiction does not mean that they can’t succeed at writing an original story. I believe that people are entitled to their opinions, but I really don’t see how Clare’s fan fiction writing past has anything to do with the original world and story she’s created. With that out of the way, this review will reflect only my experience of reading City of Bones.
I love the cover art for City of Bones. It’s unusual and eye-catching – equally effective on a bookshelf or a computer screen. The dark colours of the graveyard in the foreground blend easily into the New York cityscape and finally into the large figure who seems to be rising like the sun over the landscape. I don’t normally like covers that cut the head off of people, but in this case it works and lends a sense of mystery to the figure. This cover is an example of great design work. I was, however, disappointed by the blurb on the back cover (see above) – it is far too vague and does nothing to excite my interest in the book. In fact, if the cover hadn’t been so interesting I probably would have been reluctant to give it a chance.
The first thing I want to discuss is pace. City of Bones starts strong, but just loses momentum about a quarter of the way in. In my opinion this is because, even though the reader is discovering the world at the same time as Clary, there is still quite a lot of info dumping that gets done. I would have preferred it if Clare had fed me the information through the story itself – through overheard conversations, memories or even the often used diary. These moments of world background derailed the great start to the story and the book only recovered about halfway through. This really frustrated me because I had to work to get back into the book before my enjoyment could resurface.
I did enjoy Clare’s world – where Shadowhunters, humans with angel blood in there veins, protect the world from demons. The Shadowhunters are Nephilim, part human and part angel. City of Bones takes a slightly different approach to the idea of Nephilim and I appreciate the fact that Clare has gone to the effort of creating her own unique world by adapting existing ideas into something slightly different. Even the phrases that the characters use feel natural, but have obviously been created for this world. This takes a lot of work, but it means that the story is not happening in a vacuum and this gives it weight and texture.
I am going to confine my discussion of the characters in City of Bones to the three I think had the most impact on the story and will influence the series the most.
Clary Fray is a normal human girl who suddenly finds herself in the middle of world she never knew existed. And it seems she belongs there. Clary is an engaging character. She is smart, brave and a talented artist. But one of the greatest things is that she reacts believably to the sudden chaos in her life! There is measurable growth in Clary’s character throughout the book as she changes and adapts in response to the situations and people she encounters. I really like to see that in a character.
Jace Wayland is a formidable Shadowhunter who is looking to prove himself. When we first meet Jace he comes across as cocky and arrogant. And he really irritated me. But as Clary gets to know him his self-assured veneer slips and Clare allows us to see the character behind the bravado. I much prefer the more rounded personality this gives Jace. He can still be arrogant, but it is balanced by the fear and loneliness that sometimes creeps through.
The last character I want to discuss is Simon. He is Clary’s best friend and although he’s human (a mundane in Shadowhunter terminology) he isn’t sidelined as a character. Often protagonists discover a magical world and dismiss everything that is too “normal” in their lives. But Simon plays an important role in the story – he is Clary’s link to her old life, but he is also the voice of reason in the chaos she finds herself in. I liked that Clare left him in as a character and let him find a place in Clary’s new world.
City of Bones is an exciting read that introduces us to a vibrant new Urban Fantasy world. The pacing is a bit shaky, but once you’re into the story you’ll enjoy where it takes you....more
Kim Harrison first appeared on my radar earlier this year when I saw a number of reviews for her most recent book iReview from my blog The Word Fiend.
Kim Harrison first appeared on my radar earlier this year when I saw a number of reviews for her most recent book in the Hollows series, Pale Demon. I hate reading books out of order and context if they’re part of a series (if I can help it), so I went in search of a copy of Dead Witch Walking to see where it all began.
The cover art for my edition of Dead Witch Walking is sassy and eye-catching. Rachel Morgan’s outfit and jutted hip formed an immediate picture of the character in my head and I was dying to meet her before even opening the book. I especially liked the detail of a set of handcuffs, complete with magical charms, hanging from her belt. It shows that there’s more to Rachel than meets the eye. The fog shrouded foreground that swirls further into the image – revealing a sinister looking gothic structure backlit by what looks like an inferno – is an effective reference to the danger alluded to in the summary. This cover immediately caught my attention and promises that this book will entertain. It’s a promise that Dead Witch Walking lives up to.
I was quickly immersed in the gritty reality of the book’s setting and the feel of the world that Harrison has created. In this world the supernatural races (known as Inderlanders) live side-by-side with humans in an uneasy truce. I’m impressed with the history that Harrison has created. Humanity’s use of genetic engineering resulted in a virus that decimated large portions of the world’s population. The Inderlanders who had, until that time, remained hidden from the humans were immune to this virus. They stepped up to keep society running and by the time the virus had been dealt with their numbers where virtually equal to those of the humans. Despite what many humans may have wanted there was no putting the genie back in the bottle, metaphorically speaking, and now the Inderlanders live in the open. It’s an interesting theory to explain why the supernatural is part of society in the Hollows series and I applaud Harrison’s originality.
Despite what the book summary suggests, the Inderland community is comprised of more than just vampires. There are leprechauns, fairies, witches, trolls, pixies, weres and a host of other species. This adds richness and variation to Harrison’s world. But even the vampires, who are the subject of many Urban Fantasy novels, are different. Harrison has split the vampire race into two subgroups: living vampires and dead vampires. This means that the vampires in the Hollows series may have a little something else to offer fans of the genre.
Rachel Morgan is my kind of character. She’s smart, sassy and stubborn. More importantly she isn’t all-powerful, like some characters in Urban Fantasy can be. Rachel has flaws and idiosyncrasies that make for a rounded personality. Even though she spends most of the book trying to stay alive, Rachel doesn’t cower in a corner somewhere. That sass and stubbornness I mentioned make her go looking for answers and get her into all manner of trouble. I would love to see how Rachel grows and develops as a character through the series.
Dead Witch Walking is an entertaining book that has found a place in my Urban Fantasy collection. As the first book in a series there are some less engaging sections, but if this is the start then it can only get better from here....more
I’m going to start this review with some cover love. The Rapture has a beautifully effective cover that is both draReview from my blog The Word Fiend.
I’m going to start this review with some cover love. The Rapture has a beautifully effective cover that is both dramatic and eye-catching. It invites you to spend some time exploring it and I was more than happy to take up the offer. The stark black and white image of the young girl with the crashing wave and forbidding sky alongside her ties the main elements of the book together. The forces of nature are also symbolic of the turmoil and danger Bethany represents. This dark background allows the vibrant blue of the girl’s eye to stand out and it is the first things I noticed about the book. That blue eye draws you in so that the rest of the cover comes into focus. Something that I found very effective is that what initially looks like light reflecting on the girl’s iris, on closer inspection, resolves itself into the continents of the world. This is a great reference to Bethany’s “sight” and I love it. The Rapture’s cover is a piece of art that is both attractive and linked to the story itself. It is an excellent example of well thought out design.
In The Rapture Liz Jensen presents us with a world on the brink of cataclysmic climate change. The book is set at an undetermined time in the near future and Jensen has taken a growing concern in recent times and brought it front and centre as a very real threat to humanity’s survival. It has been speculated that the next great world war will not be fought over land or religion, but rather over dwindling water resources. I applaud Jensen’s originality in making climate change the dramatic background against which the story of The Rapture plays out.
In the world of The Rapture two powerful and opposing forces have risen in response to humanity’s potential extinction. The first group is the Planetarians – people who believe that our time on this Earth is nearing an end and that all we can do is prepare for the inevitable fate that humanity has brought on itself. The second group is The First Wave – people who believe that the biblical End Times have arrived and that only those who have faith and accept God will be saved. Jensen has clearly put thought into how society will react to the threat of climate change and these groups are the result. I appreciate that in an author. Each group represents an extreme idea and both play an important role in The Rapture, making you think about what your choice would me.
The pace of The Rapture is frenetic and Jensen has used it to great effect to mirror the actions of her characters and the bubbling chaos of the world she has put them in. Jensen’s writing is confident and evocative and I was sucked into the story and spun along in its current. She is a talented writer and while The Rapture is not always pleasant to read, she doesn’t shy away from difficult topics and guides the reader through the story with skill.
Gabrielle Fox, the narrator, is a complex character. Following a devastating car accident she starts work as a psychologist at Oxsmith Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital as the first step in rebuilding her life. Gabrielle specialises in art therapy and Jensen uses this aspect of her personality throughout the book – from references to broken artists and their paintings to her descriptions. It reminds the reader whose eyes the story is being seen through and gives it a touch of her personality. I found Gabrielle to be a difficult character to like at first because the barriers she has put up against the world are also there in her narration. But as the story progressed I got a better sense of who Gabrielle is and the tragedies and choices that have shaped her. Her interaction and evolving relationship with Bethany expose her strengths and weaknesses, resulting in observable character growth. Gabrielle is not a loveable character but she does connect with the reader which serves to pull you into the story.
Bethany Krall is one of the most believable psychotics I have encountered in a book, even with her prophetic visions. She is a broken person who lashes out in violence and anger at the world. Bethany doesn’t know how to interact with the people around her, so seals herself behind a shield of scorn and vulgarity. She is an unsettling character, but I must give Jensen credit for not turning away from disturbing topics and for staying true to the character she has created. But Bethany isn’t two-dimensional and through the book she reveals a battered and lonely centre which lets the reader understand her a bit better. Her visions and her absolute conviction in them also give her an edge of mystery, making her an intriguing enigma that readers will want to try and solve.
The Rapture is a thrilling book whose chaotic setting and raw characters will engage you and keep you reading....more
I have bipolar type II – I’m drawn to books that deal with mental health and, more specifically, to those written aReview from my blog The Word Fiend.
I have bipolar type II – I’m drawn to books that deal with mental health and, more specifically, to those written about, or by, people with bipolar. So when a friend offered to lend me Your Voice in My Head I leapt at the chance.
At first glance the cover for Your Voice in My Head looks rather baffling and surreal. But it’s an image that represents the highs and lows of the author’s illness beautifully. Emma Forrest has bipolar type I, where mania and depression cycle more extremely than in type II. The fluttering butterflies represent the brightness and creativity that mania can be at first as they are freed to escape into the air. But in the midst of depression, where it can feel like you’re drowning, they are stilled. A lot of thought has gone into this cover and it is an eye-catching and effective metaphor for the illness that has had such an impact on Forrest’s life.
Forrest’s writing is slick and descriptive and she wields language like a conductor shapes music. In this sense Your Voice in My Head reads like a carefully crafted novel. It speaks highly of the author’s talent, but it is almost as though she is hiding behind her beautiful words and I battled to connect with her while reading this book. There are moments, especially when she is discussing her psychiatrist, where the person behind the words steps out. But these moments never seemed to last and I would lose that connection. Forrest is bluntly and brutally honest throughout the book, but about situations more than herself. I would have respected her more if that same honesty had been focussed on herself and her feelings.
Your Voice in My Head begins with a spiral of depression, self-harm and bulimia that ultimately leads to a breakdown and Forrest’s first meeting with the psychiatrist, Dr R, who will have a significant impact on her recovery and her life. But when Dr R dies, aged 53, she is left bereft and looking for answers to explain her loss. Your Voice in My Head is partially dedicated to Dr R, his family and his patients. From Forrest’s descriptions and the notes of appreciation from patients scattered through the book it is clear that he was a remarkable man and that he helped many people. For me, these moments between her and Dr R were the soul of the book. But they are disappointingly far apart. Forrest mentions that she saw Dr R on-and-off for 8 years, yet she seems to have only included a few moments to give the reader a taste of the man. I found myself wondering how she could be so brutally honest about many aspects of her life, but these important moments of her treatment and recovery weren’t explored.
The other moments when I really connected with the author was in her descriptions of depression and mania. Depression is often associated with water in the book and Forrest makes repeated references to Millais’ Ophelia and it has made me view the famous painting in a different light.
At about the same time that Forrest loses Dr R, she enters into a new relationship with her ‘Gypsy Husband’ (actor Colin Farrell). She throws herself into this partnership and for a while she is really happy. But then the relationship ends and the feelings of abandonment sit heavily on her heart and mind. While I appreciate the significant impact this relationship, and its end, had on Forrest’s life, it takes up more of the book than I felt was necessary. So many other things have happened to her that I found the continued references to Farrell tiring after a while.
Your Voice in My Head is a frank exploration of one woman’s experience of bipolar disorder. In parts it is a touching tribute to her psychiatrist and family, but some of the obsessing over lost love seemed out of balance to other events. Forrest’s writing is beautiful and the book is worth a look, but I won’t be adding it to my collection....more
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 AReview 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....more
The Serial Killer sub-genre is very popular with readers. Maybe it's the fact that we can get close to such inhumanReview from my blog The Word Fiend.
The Serial Killer sub-genre is very popular with readers. Maybe it's the fact that we can get close to such inhuman evil and still be able to walk away when we put the book down. Maybe it's a fascination with what humans are capable of. For me both these ideas play a part, but what I most enjoy is the chase – working with the investigators to solve the puzzle and catch the bad guy. You Are Next is a promising debut from a new voice in this popular sub-genre.
The cover image is quite simple, but striking. The read background immediately caught my eye and its implied reference to blood and violence can't be ignored. But, for me, the simple addition of a broken domino was especially effective in the context of the story. It is a reference to the killer, but also to the destruction his “game” has left in his wake.
Katia Lief's writing is direct, with very little unnecessary description and padding. This style suits the story she has set out to tell and exposes the stark reality of the investigation and the killer's actions. There isn't time for pretty words when lives are at stake. I did, however, think that the pacing of You Are Next was off. The book started strongly, immediately drawing me into the story, but then the pace near the middle of the book before picking up again for the climax. This lag frustrated me. I know that a story needs to ebb and flow, but the downtime in You Are Next was too long. It should have been broken up to keep the reader engaged in the story.
I did like the games and clues that the Domino Killer leaves for the investigators. They let me feel like I could help the case if I could just figure them out. The use of dominoes, which are in themselves such harmless objects, added an extra level of malice to the crimes.
Karin Schaeffer is something different as far as protagonists in this sub-genre go. She is broken. The Domino Killer murdered her husband and child and we meet her as she is trying to hold herself and her life together in the wake of this tragedy. But she's failing. Lief's exploration of Karin's suicidal thoughts and grief are well handled and the play a large part in the plot. It's difficult to write about these topics and keep the character from alienating the reader, but Lief manages it capably.
You Are Next is a thriller about the effects of a serial killer's actions as much as it is about the hunt. It's a different approach to this kind of story and I liked it. I'll be keeping an eye on this author....more
I’ve seen Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson books reviewed and talked about on a couple of blogs. That got me curiousReview 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....more
Personally I love those gems you find when you stumble across a book that looks interesting and decide to give it aReview 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....more
I don’t read romance novels as a general rule, but when I do I prefer those with a paranormal twist to them. I alsoReview from my blog The Word Fiend.
I don’t read romance novels as a general rule, but when I do I prefer those with a paranormal twist to them. I also like romance novels to have a strong story to backup the relationships developed. Angels’ Blood checks both boxes.
I’m in two minds about the cover art used for this edition of Angels’ Blood. Part of me feels that the designers could have done more with it – perhaps using artwork instead of a photograph. But another part of me has to admit that the image of the model with those gorgeous angel wing tattoos works. I do like the splatters and droplets of blood that are part of the text used for the title – it’s simple but quite effective.
I’m just going to leap in and say that I loved the idea behind Nalini Singh’s world in Angels’ Blood. The story is set in the modern world, but where angels and vampires are an accepted part of day-to-day life. The great aspect for me was the idea that angels create and control vampires – it puts a new spin on two quite popular supernatural groups. Added to this mix are the Guild Hunters. They are humans who track and capture rogue vampires. It makes for an interesting mix and provides a ripe foundation for a series.
The fear and respect which angels and, to a lesser extent, vampires inspire is easy to accept because Singh takes the reader straight into her world. There’s no sitting back and studying it, it’s visceral and immediate and it helps to bring the book to life.
My one problem with the book was that I would have liked to see more of the rogue archangel or at least his actions. The hunt for him drives the story and does a good job of keeping the suspense raised, but the terror he inspires didn’t really mean much once the hunt was over.
Elena is a born Hunter, meaning she has the natural ability to sense and hunt vampires. She’s good at what she does and she knows it. She is pushy and tough, but Singh has given her a good backstory that rounds her out as a character. Her attraction to Raphael is well handled and I liked that their relationship was part of the larger story.
Nalini Singh has created an intriguing paranormal world in Angels’ Blood populated by a cast of interesting characters and I look forward to seeing what happens next in the series....more
Warning: As this is the second book in a trilogy this review may contain spoilers for those who have not read the fReview 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. ...more
I’ve seen the Vampire Academy books mentioned on various blogs and those reviewers with similar tastes to mine seemReview from my blog The Word Fiend.
I’ve seen the Vampire Academy books mentioned on various blogs and those reviewers with similar tastes to mine seem to have had only good things to say about the series. I am wary of vampire books since there’s been such a rush of them of the market, but who am I to pass up a book with such potential?
The cover for this edition of Vampire Academy didn’t excite me very much. I do, however, like the model’s cheeky look over one shoulder that invites the reader into the book. I also like how the title has been written in such a way that the ‘A’ from ‘Academy’ flows up into the word ‘Vampire’. It’s not a bad cover; it just didn’t leave me feeling ‘wow’.
Richelle Mead’s writing flows well and she handles flashbacks and memories very well. They don’t interrupt the narration and add to the story. Some authors don’t handle flashbacks well and you get the feeling that they’re there to fill up space, but in Vampire Academy Mead uses them to great effect to slowly reveal information to the reader and to heighten the drama. It’s lovely to see this technique used so well.
I had no problem stepping into the world of Vampire Academy. In part this is because the story is told from one of the character’s, Rose’s, point of view. We get to experience events through Rose’s eyes and she’s an excellent choice for a narrator. Another reason is that this world reads so easily is that Mead has created one rich in history and detail. I liked the idea behind the Moroi, living vampires who still need blood to survive, but who remain mortal. In the mix are also the dhampirs, half-vampire and half-human, who act as the Moroi’s protectors. And then there is the threat posed by the Strigoi, Moroi who have killed and become immortal monsters. The interplay between these groups is a rich foundation for a story to be built on and Mead has made excellent use of it.
Despite the presence of vampires, the Academy itself is very much like any other high school. It has the cliques and social pressures that are familiar to all of us. I really enjoyed this because it makes the characters, despite not being human, very relatable in their day-to-day interactions.
The two main characters in Vampire Academy are Rose Hathaway, the narrator and a dhampir, and Lissa Dragomir, a Moroi and Rose’s best friend. Rose has sworn to protect Lissa and has been doing so for all of their friendship. I love Rose. She’s hot-tempered and outgoing, but this is balanced by her devotion and commitment to Lissa. I didn’t connect as well with Lissa, but through Rose’s eyes I came to understand her. The growth in Rose and Lissa’s characters through the story is handled beautifully. I adore books where the characters affect the world and story and are, in turn, changed by what happens to them. Mead has given me just that in Vampire Academy and I love it.
Richelle Mead has hit the ground running with Vampire Academy and this already great world and story can only get better. I can’t wait....more
The research for my Honours degree in Cell Biology relied largely on cell culture. I have a passion for this fieldReview 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....more
Hex Hall is one of those books that so many people have recommended to me. Now, this level of enthusiasm for a bookReview 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....more