Category Archives: Fantasy

Armada- Ernest Cline


Synopsis

Zack Lightman is a video game addict. He spends hours playing Armada and is one of the top players in the world. Then one day he sees a spaceship outside the window, and the really strange thing? It’s a spaceship he recognises from Armada, is he going crazy, or is it something else?

Review

I read Armada as part of Dewey’s Readathon and it was a pretty perfect choice for a readathon. It was easy to read and engaging, I got to geek out, and I didn’t have to think about it too hard. It took a little time to really get going but once it did I was really hooked and it took me less than a day to read the whole thing.

I had bought Armada as a present for my partner after he loved Ready Player One, and I read it because I loved ‘Ready Player One’ too. The boyfriend described it as reading like a book written on the way to getting to ‘Ready Player One’, very similar in lots of ways, but not quite there yet. I get that completely. It wasn’t quite up to the awesomeness that was ‘Ready Player One’, but it had a lot of the same sort of geeky references which were one of the good things about ‘Ready Player One’.

Armada’s storyline is probably a bit more relatable than ‘Ready Player One’, but it makes it less of a fantasy and less escapist too. It also means that you don’t have quite as strong a feeling towards the characters. And it makes it more predictable, I guessed at least some of the plot beforehand and although I still enjoyed it but I like it when plots keep me guessing.

If you’ve not read any Ernest Cline I would go for ‘Ready Player One’ first, but ‘Armada’ may fill some of the void which was left (or may be a big disappointment if you believe some other reviewers, views are very mixed)

4/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£6.19)

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Other reviews:

Annette’s Book Spot

Leeswammes’ Blog

Silly Little Mischief

Words for Worms

Book Journey

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Beelzebelle- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Beelzebelle is the fifth book in the Clovenhoof series

Synopsis

Only Jeremy Clovenhoof could accidentally acquire a baby, but he’s ready to be a Dad- in his own way.

Meanwhile Michael has discovered a new church, Ben has found a new hobby in taxidermy, and there is a wild beast roaming around Sutton Coldfield.

Review

I’m glad to see the series back with Clovenhoof, not that I didn’t like the others, I just missed that group.

Clovenhoof approaches parenthood like no other, including hiring a monkey assistant  and joining a mother’s group in a quest for milk for the baby. Of course things don’t quite go to plan, especially as he’s not really the baby’s father!

A lot of the more action-y part of the story is focussed around Michael who finds a new church which rewards its members for ‘good deads’, a bit like a supermarket loyalty card. and also, accidently creates a beast in the lab where he works.

As with most of the clovenhoof novels most of the action is towards the end, but there is an amusing journey to get there.

4/5 

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Hellzapoppin’- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Synopsis (from amazon)

Life at St Cadfan’s is never dull. There’s the cellar full of unexplained corpses. There’s the struggle to find food when the island is placed under quarantine. And there’s that peculiar staircase in the cellar… Being a demon in Hell has its own problems. There’s the increasingly impossible torture quotas to meet. There’s the entire horde of Hell waiting for you to slip up and make a mistake. And there’s that weird staircase in the service tunnels… Brother Stephen of St Cadfan’s and Rutpsud of the Sixth Circle, natural enemies and the most unnatural of friends, join forces to solve a murder mystery, save a rare species from extinction and stop Hell itself exploding. The fourth novel in the Clovenhoof series, Hellzapoppin’ is an astonishing comedy featuring suicidal sea birds, deadly plagues, exploding barbecues, dancing rats, magical wardrobes, King Arthur’s American descendants, mole-hunting monks, demonic possession and way too much seaweed beer.

Review

Hellzapoppin’ is the fourth book in the Clovenhoof series, but can easily be read as a standalone novel. We have seen the characters in previous books in the series, but they were minor characters, and the events in the previous books they appeared in don’t really have an effect on the events in this one (I would recommend reading the others anyway).

This one did take a little more getting into than the first couple (probably about the same as Godsquad though), and it had less of an action focus.

I did like seeing the image of what Hell might be like though- again a little bit of a poke at bureaucracy that we first saw in Clovenhoof. I also likes the friendship between Ratspud and Stephen. It seems like an unlikely friendship- a monk and a demon, but actually they ended up bringing out the best in each other.

I also liked some of the odd inventions in hell, and the inclusion of Escher and C.S Lewis. If you know the work of Escher you can probably imagine how hellish a piece of architecture based on his work could be. C.S Lewis is known for being a Christian and his Christian writings so it’s interesting to see him here, ‘on loan’ from Heaven.

escheromhoogomlaag

I enjoyed the comedy of the events at the monastery, even the dark humour which isn’t always to my taste.

Part of the reason I picked up Hellzapoppin’ was because of my loss of reading mojo, which I thought this might get through, and I was right.

4/5

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Ready Player One- Ernest Cline


Synopsis (from amazon)

It’s the year 2044, and the real world has become an ugly place. We’re out of oil. We’ve wrecked the climate. Famine, poverty, and disease are widespread.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes this depressing reality by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia where you can be anything you want to be, where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade is obsessed by the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this alternate reality: OASIS founder James Halliday, who dies with no heir, has promised that control of the OASIS – and his massive fortune – will go to the person who can solve the riddles he has left scattered throughout his creation.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that the riddles are based in the culture of the late twentieth century. And then Wade stumbles onto the key to the first puzzle.

Suddenly, he finds himself pitted against thousands of competitors in a desperate race to claim the ultimate prize, a chase that soon takes on terrifying real-world dimensions – and that will leave both Wade and his world profoundly changed.

Review

I’d been hearing great things about Ready Player One, reviews that almost made me want to read it, but I didn’t really think it sounded like my type of book, so I didn’t seek it out.

Then I was trying to think of a present for my partner. I’d had a fair amount of success with books which sounded good but a little too fantasy or sci-fi for me, so Ready Player One came to mind.

My partner really enjoyed it, so, when my TBR pile wasn’t looking especially appealing, I decided to borrow it.

Oh how I wish I’d read it sooner. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with sci-fi- which is the main thing that puts me off, but this book definitely fell on the love side of things.

It had everything, action, romance, intrigue. The geek in me loved it. A lot of people say that they liked the nostalgia element, but most of the things based o the past were from the 80s, I was born i 87 so a bit early for me, and I was’t a console player anyway which a lot was based o. Maybe if I was I would have enjoyed it eve more, but as it was I loved it.

5/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£5.84)

Kindle (£4.99)

Other reviews:

Reading is the Ultimate Aphrodisiac

Book Journey

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

Silly Little Mischief

Ink and Page

Girl Vs Bookshelf

Leeswammes’ Blog

Words For Worms

Nylon Admiral

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Oddjobs- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Disclaimer: I was given this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (from amazon)

It’s the end of the world as we know it, but someone still needs to do the paperwork.
Incomprehensible horrors from beyond are going to devour our world but that’s no excuse to get all emotional about it. Morag Murray works for the secret government organisation responsible for making sure the apocalypse goes as smoothly and as quietly as possible.
In her first week on the job, Morag has to hunt down a man-eating starfish, solve a supernatural murder and, if she’s got time, prevent her own inevitable death.

Review

I’ve been really enjoying the Clovenhoof books by Goody and Grant (I’m reading Hellzapoppin’ at the moment) so when they sent me an offer to read the first book from their new series I jumped at the chance.

Oddjobs has the same humourous tone that the Clovenhoof books do but I think it has a bit more of an edge to it.  It’s a little bit political, about work in general and probably a lot about more about government work (I’ve only ever really worked in that sector so I’m not sure how true it would be of other sectors).  Basically about red tape and silly ideas.

It has more action throughout that the Clovenhoof books too, which makes it readable in a different way.

Clovenhoof is probably a bit more easy going, but I think overall this might be a more interesting series, I’ll be looking forward to the next one.

4/5

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The Radleys- Matt Haig


Synopsis (from amazon)

Life with the Radleys: Radio 4, dinner parties with the Bishopthorpe neighbours and self-denial. Loads of self-denial. But all hell is about to break loose. When teenage daughter Clara gets attacked on the way home from a party, she and her brother Rowan finally discover why they can’t sleep, can’t eat a Thai salad without fear of asphyxiation and can’t go outside unless they’re smothered in Factor 50.

With a visit from their lethally louche Uncle Will and an increasingly suspicious police force, life in Bishopthorpe is about to change. Drastically.

Review

The Radley’s was on my wishlist for years, before I read The Humans, before The Humans was even released. I have a problem, I add things to my wishlist and never buy them, because when I’m in a bookshop (or to a lesser extent on an online store) I get distracted by books which are not on my wishlist, and end up buying them. I think I ended up buying The Radleys because it was on kindle deal.

I’m trying to think how to review without spoiling.

It’s somewhat of a coming of age novel, although not in a classic sense, because the thing which is making the Radley children grow up is not exactly normal. Also that there is a sort of coming of age novel for the parents too- who says you have o be a teenager to ‘come of age’?

At times it was sort of predictable, but that’s ok, I enjoyed it anyway.

3/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£8.99)
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Other reviews:

Reading With Tea

Leeswammes’ Blog

Knitting and Sundries

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

B Reading

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Wool Series- Hugh Howey


The Wool series consists of 3 books; Wool , Shift and Dust

Synopsis (written by me, because there isn’t just one)

Years in the future a civilization, the only survivors on earth are living in a silo. Outside the air is poison. The Wool series of books looks at how this came to be, and how things started to fall apart.

Review

Note on the review: Because I read Wool, Shift, and Dust one after the other I have decided to review them all in one go rather than as separate books. Because of this I’ve decided to use a sort of key code. Anything in black refers to all the books and isn’t a spoiler. Anything in red refers to Wool, there may be spoilers for Wool but won’t be any spoilers for previous books. Anything in green refers to Shift, it may contain spoilers for Shift or Wool. Anything in purple refers to Dust, it may contain spoilers for any of the three books.

I bought Wool (and later Shift and Dust) for my partner initially. There were quite a few reviews around at the time (I definitely remember that Ellie reviewed Dust) and I thought the books sounded good, but not quite me. These sorts of sci-fi things are more my boyfriend’s taste. However when he enjoyed it I thought I would give it a read too.

Overall I did enjoy the series although for all the books I found they started slow and after a while became more interesting. I must admit as well that I found my interest in the series overall wavered with each book, so although I fairly enjoyed Dust, it had significantly less pull than Wool did.


By the end of Wool I was really looking forward to starting Shift and seeing what happened next. My boyfriend warned me I would be somewhat disappointed, and he was right because Shift doesn’t continue on from where Wool left off, instead it jumps back to when the silos were new and gradually moves to the same time but in silo one- head silo- and how the events in Wool effect that silo.

I still enjoyed Shift by the end, it was interesting to see another side. It was also interesting how Jules almost became the enemy. Or I suppose I should say how it didn’t seem like the plans we learnt about in Wool were so bad after all. They seemed somewhat good intentioned.

I sort of wish things had stayed that way, where you can see both sides of the coin, but Dust changed it into bad plans again. I think it would have been more interesting to see Jules and silo one discussing her problems with what they were doing and maybe finding a solution.

Dust’s start was rather disappointing. It didn’t start where Wool had left off but jumped a little further forward, and I think partly because of this things were a little confusing. Jules seemed to know a lot but it was difficult to understand how she knew a lot of it. Of course I could have forgotten what exactly had happened in Wool which may have marred my impression of Shift.

 

Would I recommend the series? I don’t know. A lot of promise seems unfulfilled, but I did enjoy reading them, so maybe

3/5

Buy it:

Wool (from £4.99)
Shift (from £4.99)
Dust (from £4.99)

Other reviews:

Leeswammes’ Blog Wool | Shift

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm Wool | Shift

Quirky Bookworm Wool

The Sleepless Reader Wool

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane- Neil Gaiman


Synopsis (from amazon)
It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed – within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it.
His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

Review

Neil Gaiman started off writing ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ as a short story for his wife when they were apart, but it just kept growing. You can sort of tell that he was thinking about her at the time. The narrator keeps speaking about stories or books as a comfort and an escapism, I can see that as being what Gaiman intended this story to be for his wife. I put a few of the most interesting quotes on my tumblr, but I think this one sums it up the best:

“I went away in my head, into a book. That was where I went whenever real life was too hard or too inflexible “

In a way it is more ‘adult’ than the other books I’ve read by Gaiman. I think it’s because it’s narrated by the main character as he looks back. It’s more introspective and that gives us the sort of insight that a present narrator wouldn’t give. Looking bak he could see things which he might not see at the time.

It still had the normal Gaiman fantasy and action-y bits which stopped it being too thoughtful, but actually I preferred the times when the narrator was just thinking. The thoughtful times I suppose.

There’s some interesting messages in it too about an adult’s relationship with his own childhood. About how looking back can be a comfort, and about how we never really loose that childhood part of ourselves, it’s just often hidden by life.

3.5/5

Buy it:

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Other reviews:

Reading is the Ultimate Aphrodisiac

Under a Gray Sky

Alison Mccarthy

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

An Armchair by the Sea

Words for Worms

Chrisbookarama

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Stardust- Neil Gaiman



Synopsis (from amazon)

Life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall – named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester and for the coveted prize of her hand, Tristran vows to retrieve a fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends him over the ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining…

Review

This is one of those books where I saw the film first. And I really like the film. It sort of put me off reading the book because I find if I watch the film first I’m just waiting for my favourite bits of the film. It’s part of the reason I try to read books first, sometimes I can still enjoy the film then, but I would rather get the enjoyment out of the book, generally speaking.

I couldn’t help comparing it to the film. I did think it was a little slower to start but I didn’t mind because it meant that a similar atmosphere could be built, and actually it gave me a better idea of the contrast between the village of Wall and the land beyond the wall.

On the other end of the spectrum though one of my favourite bits of the film is the pirate captain. He was still significant in a way in the book but his actual part was less big, we didn’t see so much of him, so we didn’t get as much of a sense of character from him.

Overall I did enjoy it. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t seen the film first. But it was a nice little story, I just don’t really have anything much to say about it.

3/5

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Other Reviews:

Nylon Admiral

Words For Worms

Chrisbookarama

Literary Lindsey

 

 

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Pigeonwings- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Pigeonwings is the follow-up novel to Clovenhoof.

Synopsis (from amazon)

As punishment for his part in an attempted coup in Heaven, the Archangel Michael is banished to Earth. The holiest of the angelic host has to learn to live as a mortal, not an easy job when you’ve got Satan as a next-door neighbour.

Michael soon finds that being a good person involves more than helping out at Sunday school and attending church coffee mornings. He has to find his purpose in life, deal with earthly temptations and solve a mystery involving some unusual monks and a jar of very dangerous jam.

Heide Goody and Iain Grant have written a wild comedy that features spear-wielding cub scouts, accidental transvestites, King Arthur, a super-intelligent sheepdog, hallucinogenic snacks, evil peacocks, old ladies with biscuits, naked paintball, stolen tractors, clairvoyant computers, the Women’s Institute, and way too much alcohol.

Review

This book follows on from Clovenhoof but his time instead of focusing on Satan it focuses on the Archangel Michael who has recently been banished from Heaven.

It was my first read of 2014 (and I’m only now writing the review!) and it was a fun way to start the year

I must admit I didn’t enjoy Pigeonwings as much as I enjoyed Clovenhoof, Michael just wasn’t as exciting as a character.

Having said that there were more topics which verged on the serious, as Michael fried to re-establish his relationship with God, something which he had taken for granted before. It was interesting to see him explore faith in different ways, and finding how difficult it can seem for a human to have a relationship with God.

Ultimately though it was still funny, and there waa less dark humour than there was in Clovenhoof, which I personally am not a big fan of anyway. I think it was less funny overall though as well.

There was the mystery side of it which I liked however.

I’m looking forward to the next one which is due out later this year.

4/5

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Kindle (£2.99)

 

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Clovenhoof- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Synopsis (from amazon)

Charged with gross incompetence, Satan is fired from his job as Prince of Hell and exiled to that most terrible of places: English suburbia. Forced to live as a human under the name of Jeremy Clovenhoof, the dark lord not only has to contend with the fact that no one recognises him or gives him the credit he deserves but also has to put up with the bookish wargamer next door and the voracious man-eater upstairs.

Heaven, Hell and the city of Birmingham collide in a story that features murder, heavy metal, cannibalism, armed robbers, devious old ladies, Satanists who live with their mums, gentlemen of limited stature, dead vicars, petty archangels, flamethrowers, sex dolls, a blood-soaked school assembly and way too much alcohol.

Review

Clovenhoof was one of the books I got at the Birmingham Independent Book Fair (I also got the sequel, Pigeonwings, which I haven’t yet read). My boyfriend read it before me and compared it to Good Omens (which I haven’t read), a book he had enjoyed. He was excited to see where I was whilst reading it too.

It was a funny, and quite light read. It was interesting how the reader was made sympathetic to Satan, to even like him, and to dislike the angel Michael. It should really be the other way round, shouldn’t it?

I suppose in a way it shows how bureaucracy has good intentions, but sometimes you have to break the rules so that things will work, and some rules are more important than others. Or even that sometimes old rules loose their importance as things change. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there’s a bit of a serious message which you can read into Clovenhoof.

There’s also a bit of a message about there really being no absolute good or evil, because something meant for good can have bad consequences, and things meant for bad can have good consequences.

You don’t have to make it serious though, you can just read it as a funny story about the devil having to live on earth.

Plus it’s sent in Birmingham, it’s always nice when a story is set somewhere you know.

There’s a great twist at the end too.

4/5

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Clash of Kings- George R.R Martin


Clash of Kings is the second book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series which started with A Game of Thrones

Synopsis (from amazon)

Throughout Westeros, the cold winds are rising.

From the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding lands of Winterfell, chaos reigns as pretenders to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms stake their claims through tempest, turmoil and war.

As a prophecy of doom cuts across the sky – a comet the colour of blood and flame – five factions struggle for control of a divided land. Brother plots against brother and the dead rise to walk in the night.

Against a backdrop of incest, fratricide, alchemy and murder, the price of glory is measured in blood.

Review

You know what? I don’t think I really get on that well with epic fantasy novels. I’ve never been able to get further than the forming of the fellowship in Lord of the Rings. I did like Clash of Kings but it took me a long time to read, and I didn’t come out of it eager to read the next one (unlike I had for A Game of Thrones).

As with Game of Thrones there were parts I really liked, and parts I didn’t like so much. I actually liked Sansa’s chapters more than I had previously, but found Jon’s chapters held my attention less.

In general it felt less actiony, which is strange as war is definitely taking hold now. Maybe I just don’t find battles that engaging to read?

Tyrion’s chapters were undoubtedly my favourites. I still can’t quite work him out, I think maybe that he is just out for himself and sort of waiting to see what will happen, although he was more on a Lannister in this book.

There has been a lot set up for the future however, and it interested me enough to want to keep reading, I’m just in no hurry.

3.5/5

Buy it from an indie store (via Hive):

Paperback (£8.49)

E-book (£6.71)

Buy it from amazon:

Paperback (£3.85)

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Other Reviews:

Nylon Admiral

Reading is the Ultimate Aphrodisiac

Under a Gray Sky

Nishita’s Rants and Ravings

 

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The Glass Guardian- Linda Gillard


Synopsis (from amazon)
Ruth Travers has lost a lover, both parents and her job. Now she thinks she might be losing her mind.

When death strikes again, Ruth finds herself the owner of a dilapidated Victorian house on the Isle of Skye: Tigh na Linne, the summer home she shared as a child with her beloved Aunt Janet, the woman she’d regarded as a mother.

As Ruth prepares to put the old house up for sale, she discovers she’s not the only occupant. Worse, she suspects she might be falling in love again.

With a man who died almost a hundred years ago…

Review

This is probably the best Linda Gillard I’ve read since A Lifetime Burning (which still remains my favourite). They both do have a supernatural element, although much stronger in this one.

It actually reminds me quite a bit of Her Fearful Symmetry it has a similar gothic feel, and I always like gothic stories.

The love story was good too, strangely realistic, although the way it ended was a bit too perfect.

3.5/5

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Other Reviews:

The Little Reader Library

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1Q84 (Book 3)- Haruki Murakami


1q84, 1q84 book 3, haruki murakami
Please note this review contains spoilers for 1Q84 books 1 and 2

Synopsis (from amazon)

Book Two of 1Q84 ended with Aomame standing on the Metropolitan Expressway with a gun between her lips.

She knows she is being hunted, and that she has put herself in terrible danger in order to save the man she loves.

But things are moving forward, and Aomame does not yet know that she and Tengo are more closely bound than ever.

Tengo is searching for Aomame, and he must find her before this world’s rules loosen up too much.

He must find her before someone else does.

Review

Maybe I’ve been reading 1Q84 for too long (I picked this up as soon as I finished book 2) but I found this one strangely…normal. Imean it wasn’t exactly, but it seemed to make sense, and I found myself being able to predict things before they were revealed- and even how they could logically make sense- or at least make sense within the context of 1Q84. Even though the rules of the world were still not what one would expect in a normal world it was like I knew what the rules were.

I think it might have been better if I didn’t know the rules. It was kind of satisfying to find out I was right but it made the novel less compelling to read. I’m not sure I was meant to work out things though, at least most of the time.

I feel I should have more to say, but I don’t really. Maybe more Fuku-Eri would have been nice. There was something about her as a character but she didn’t really factor much into book 3.

I still enjoyed book 3. However book 2 is undoubtedly my favourite.

4/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£5.59)

Kindle (£4.99)

Hardback (£11.99)

Paperback- books 1, 2 & 3 (£9.09)

Other Reviews:

Word by Word

Sam Still Reading

Nose in a Book (books 1, 2 and 3)

Keep Watching the Words (books 1, 2 and 3)

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The Returned- Jason Mott


the returned, jason mott, book, book cover
Disclaimer: I was given this book free of charge by the publishers (via netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (from amazon)

All over the world, people’s loved ones are returning from the dead.
Exactly as they were before they died.
As if they never left.
As if it’s just another ordinary day.Jacob Hargrave tragically drowned over 40 years ago. Now he’s on his aged parents doorstep, still eight years old; the little boy they knew they d never see again. As the family find themselves at the centre of a community on the brink of collapse, they are forced to navigate a whole new reality and question everything they’ve ever believed.No one knows how or why this mysterious event is happening, whether it s a miracle or a sign of the end.
The only certainty is that their lives will never be the same again.

Review

Note: This book is not the same as French television show The Returned (which was recently popular in the UK) but is being made into a TV show by ABC in America with the name Resurrection. They do both however feature people coming back from the dead.

I first came across The Returned on Leeswammes’ Blog, and to be honest I read the review because I wanted to see if it was the book of the TV show.  Through reading it however I did become interested so decided to see if it was still up on netgalley- and it was (yay!).

The story was rather emotional. Firstly the idea of someone whom you loved coming back to life- and the same happening all over the world. How would you cope after you’d got over that loss? And how would the time in-between (when you have aged, but your loved one has not) effect your relationship? What if your loved one didn’t come back? Would you be questioning why, and wondering if they didn’t want to come back?

Then there was the problem of the suddenly rapidly expanding population. Were ‘the returned’ entitled to help in finding their families? Should their families be obliged to take them in? If they had nowhere to go should they be entitled to homes, and jobs, healthcare? Everywhere arguments are starting, fighting, riots, as people battle about what should be done with the returned. In America (where the majority of the book is situated) the returned are taken to internment camps, but more and more returned are turning up, and resources are stretch to the limit. It’s how you might imagine a refugee camp.

The main bulk of the story rests with Harold and Lucille Hargrave, whose son Jacob returns. Jacob drowned at the age of 8, but Harold and Lucille are now in their 80s. A lot of the story is how they balance their loss of Jacob with him returning, and sees how their relationship with him changes and stays the same.

There’s also a strong political element to the story, to do with how the government and the general population respond.

The chapters are also interspersed with short sections about other people who returned, and their stories.

At times the book is very emotional, it makes you sad, relieved, happy, and sometimes a little angry.

I would recommend reading the author note at the end too where Mott talks about his inspiration. It’s rather heart wrenching.

The Returned is the first in a series, but I really can’t see how it can be a series, it seems like a perfect stand alone book. I suppose if each book followed a different member of the returned?

4/5

Buy it:
Kindle (£4.80)
Hardback (£5.84)
Paperback (£12.99)

Other reviews:

Have I missed your review? Post your link in comments and I will add it here.

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Filed under Contempory, Dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction review, Paranormal, Sci-Fi

1Q84 (book 2)- Haruki Murakami



Synopsis (from amazon)

The year is 1Q84.

This is the real world, there is no doubt about that.

But in this world, there are two moons in the sky.

In this world, the fates of two people, Tengo and Aomame, are closely intertwined. They are each, in their own way, doing something very dangerous. And in this world, there seems no way to save them both.

Something extraordinary is starting.

Review

You know what? I have missed Murakami. I struggled a little with 1Q84 book one and felt I needed a rest before book two. I wanted to read Murakami but I wasn’t letting myself read anything by him until I had read book two. So I waited and waited and waited. I finshed reading book 1 in April 2012. I started reading book two in August this year. That’s quite a gap.

I was a bit nervous that I would find book two hard, it’s part of the reason I left it so long. However it didn’t take long for me to wish that I had returned to the book sooner. Book two was much more classic Murakami. There were parts of it which reminded me of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (one of my favourite Murakami novels).

To give a review of a Murakami novel is really difficult. They’re so bizarre that you can’t really explain them, you have to experience them. Even though they have similar themes that you can compare to each other they continue to surprise you.

So what can I say about 1Q84? I loved it, I have the big hardback edition and towards the end I started carrying it with me to read rather than my kindle, I haven’t done something like that with a book for a long time, and never with a hardback. When I went to the new library I went and looked for, and borrow book 3 before I would even look around the library- because I knew I would want to start reading it straight away. It just had me hooked!

It had a plot which in ways was similar to a crime novel, you really wanted to know what would happen next. But of course with Murakami there are twists and plots which you couldn’t imagine in your wildest dreams. Things which could not happen in 1984, only 1Q84.

I can’t really say anything of substance, just if you too struggle with book one please, please, PLEASE, don’t give up! I promise it’s worth it.

5/5

Buy it:

Hardback- books 1 and 2 (£13.20)

Paperback- books 1 and 2 (£6.29)

Kindle- books 1 and 2 (£5.98)

Paperback- books 1, 2 and 3 (£9.09)

Other reviews:

Sam Still Reading (books 1 & 2)

Claire @ Word by Word (books 1 & 2)

Kate @ Nose in a Book (all books)

Una @ Keep Watching the Words (all books)

Marie @ Girl Vs Bookshelf (all books)

Have I missed your review? Post your link in comments and I will add it here.

 

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Filed under Contempory, Fantasy, Fiction review, Literary, Sci-Fi

Fyre- Angie Sage



Fyre is the seventh (and final) book in the Septimus Heap series. You can see my reviews of the previous 6 books by using the Septimus Heap tag.

Synopsis (from amazon)

Septimus Heap, Wizard Apprentice, must fight the remnants of the Darke Domaine. For this, the ancient Alchemie Fyre must be relit, a task which will test Septimus to his limits and send him on a perilous journey. Septimus will finally discover who he is – but at what cost? And who will prevail when the greatest Magyk of all is kindled?

Prepare for a spellbinding finale, as FYRE masterfully weaves together every character from this epic series.

Review

For some reason they don’t seem to have the edition of Fyre I read listed new on amazon anymore, but it’s most like the collector’s edition (which is not yet available). I ordered that particular version because of the cover. For some reason Bloomsbury have decided to change the cover design for the last book so it doesn’t fit with the other 6 I have on my shelves. it’s rather annoying, especially as I do not like the new cover even without comparison with other. The version I got was a ‘roughcut’. There are a few complaints about it on amazon (possibly why it has been taken down) but the pages are meant to be roughcut to look like old pages or parchment pages. I rather like the effect, it looks like an old spell book. The pages are also thinner which probably makes the book less weighty.

Anyway, on to the story. There are a few reasons why I read the whole series of Septimus Heap books, and none of them are that closely related to plot

– A friend gave me his copies of the first two books, so you know I may as well read them

– I have a thing about series (which I have spoken about before) and hate to leave them unfinished, unless it was a real struggle even to get through the first book.

– My boyfriend also wanted to finish the series, so we decided to take it in turns to buy each book (hence why he bought this one) with whomever pays for the book getting to read it first.

– I was interested enough in the storyline to want to know how it ends, but not enough to feel I had to know right now (as I was with Harry Potter)

If you have been reading the series as it comes out then I would recommend re-reading the series before you read Fyre, I didn’t and I think maybe my enjoyment suffered because of it. Fyre draws together lots of little storylines and characters from throughout the books. It’s one of the things I most like about the books because it is rather clever, but it does mean that if you have forgotten about a character or plot theme then you may find yourself a little lost in parts. Personally I think I forgot about 99% of the plot of Syren (although at the time of reviewing I did say that it didn’t seem to be a book which the series really needed).

Again I had that issue that for a long while everything was just being set up. Not much was really happening that engaged me, but by the end I wanted to stay up to finish reading. You can tell I wasn’t that interested from my status updates on goodreads, in the first 5 days I only read 57 pages- where it usually takes me a week to read a whole book.

The story generally though was a nice conclusion, and it did come together well. There was a bit of a message there too about self change and how circumstances can force people to be a certain way.

Oh yeah and one thing I didn’t like was Sage shoving in a blatant ‘read my other books’ message. The character seemed to be added just so she could say ‘look this character who has no real role and you’ve never heard of before, guess what? I wrote a series about her, you should read it’. Nothing would make me want to read that series less.

3/5

Buy it:

Hardback (£8.57)

Collector’s Edition- pre-order (£14.99)

Kindle (£6.69)

Paperback- pre-order (£6.63)

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Filed under Fantasy, Fiction review, Sci-Fi, YA

The Show- John A. Heldt


Disclaimer: I was given this book free of charge by the author in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from amazon)

Seattle, 1941. Grace Vandenberg, 21, is having a bad day. Minutes after Pearl Harbor is attacked, she learns that her boyfriend is a time traveler from 2000 who has abandoned her for a future he insists they cannot share. Determined to save their love, she follows him into the new century. But just when happiness is within her grasp, she accidentally enters a second time portal and exits in 1918. Distraught and heartbroken, Grace starts a new life in the age of Woodrow Wilson, silent movies, and the Spanish flu. She meets her parents as young, single adults and befriends a handsome, wounded Army captain just back from the war. In THE SHOW, the sequel to THE MINE, Grace finds love and friendship in the ashes of tragedy as she endures the trial of her life.

Review

Sorry if this review is a little all over the place, I’ve had a migraine this weekend and my head is still a little fuzzy.

The Show is the third book in the Northwest Passage series. It continues where the first book in the series, The Mine, left off. I have not read the second book in the series, The Journey, but it follows a different storyline so it isn’t needed (in fact I’m not really sure why Heldt put a random non-joining story in the middle). You could probably even read The Show as an independent story, but I would recommend reading The Mine first.

When I first got the e-mail about a sequel to The Mine I was interested to see what happened with Grace and Joel next, and to see how Grace settled into modern life. However when I read the synopsis I was a little less sure. It seemed that Heldt was trying, unnecessarily to stretch the sci-fi element by making Grace time travel again. In a sense this was true, and I think I would have preferred a book which showed how Grace got used to the new millennium. Having said that there was a certain element of this too the story, and once I got into the story after she had time travelled it didn’t really matter to me whether it was too much of a stretch or not.

When reading The Mine I had preferred Grace to Joel and it was nice to have a story which was more from her perspective. Also because I already knew Grace from reading The Mine I cared a bit more about her. Her emotions once she lost Joel again were quite well built, and I could imagine myself acting in a similar way, however I think she got over the loss and moved on a little too quickly. It was again a sense of Heldt pushing a story in a direction which didn’t seem quite natural. Whilst I did enjoy the plot in terms of a story in it’s own right, I didn’t really like it as it related to The Mine.

There was one this in particular that bugged me about this book. It was only a little moment, not even an important one, but it really bugged me. Especially as it’s partly billed as a historical novel. In the book two girls move from England to America. They talk about how happy they are to move to the US because it’s so much more liberated than England. As a Briton that grated at me, but I was ready to overlook it. But then they started talking about how women could vote here, but not in England. Which made me think, wait a sec…didn’t votes for women exist in the UK before the US? Which yes they did, in fact at the time that the book is based women couldn’t vote in most of America.

2.5/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£1.97)

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Filed under Fantasy, Fiction review, Historical, Sci-Fi

The Pearl Savage- Tamara Rose Blodgett


This book was read as part of the Out of Your Comfort Zone Challenge. This month we were looking at blogs which review books we don’t normally read and read a book reviewed on that blog. I found a review of the third book in this series on Parajunkee’s View and read the first.

Synopsis (from amazon)

Seventeen-year old princess, Clara Williamson, lives an old-fashioned existence in a biosphere of the future.
When her sadistic mother, Queen Ada, betroths her to an abusive prince of a neighboring sphere, Clara determines to escape Outside where savages roam free.

Clara escapes tyranny only to discover the savages are not the only people who survived the cataclysmic events of one hundred forty years prior.

Once Outside, Clara finds herself trapped, unable to return to the abusive life of the sphere while facing certain danger Outside.

Can Clara find love and freedom with the peril that threatens to consume her?

Review

When I was younger I used to make up a story in bed every night whilst trying to get to sleep. It was a story which was basically the same every night, but changed and adapted over time. One thing stayed the same though. A princess who didn’t really want to be a princess, or at least not the princess her mother wanted her to be, but the people were important to her so she was looking forward to changing things once she became queen. At first The Pearl Princess reminded me a bit of my story, and I didn’t really like that. It was disconcerting and because I knew my story so well this one just didn’t meet up. It made it a little difficult to approach the book without a bit of a wonky view point, and early on I did consider giving up, but I did stick with it, and, generally speaking, I was glad that I didn’t give up.

I didn’t find that the writing of The Pearl Savage was particularly good. I found the battle scenes in particular lacked real action and weren’t very descriptive. However after a while the plot interested me enough to generally not be too bothered by the less than great writing. Only the battle scenes were really off putting.

The end was perfectly open for a sequel, although the books could easily have been closed as it was. It’s something that frustrates me a little as it means I want to read to some sort of conclusion but I really don’t think I’m willing to pay for a book in this series (the first is free on kindle). There are 4 books so far (with a 5th planned for release this year)and I certainly don’t want to be caught in a series trap.

2.5/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£0.00)

Other reviews:

Contagious Reads (Lori also reviews on Parajunkee’s View)

Have I missed your review? Leave me a link in comments and I will add it here.

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Filed under Fantasy, Fiction review, Paranormal

The Snow Child- Eowyn Ivey



Synopsis (from amazon)

Alaska, the 1920s. Jack and Mabel have staked everything on a fresh start in a remote homestead, but the wilderness is a stark place, and Mabel is haunted by the baby she lost many years before. When a little girl appears mysteriously on their land, each is filled with wonder, but also foreboding: is she what she seems, and can they find room in their hearts for her?

Review

There was a lot of buzz about this book when it first came out. It was one of the Waterstone’s 11, and everybody seemed to be reading it. It was on my wishlist for a long time but I didn’t buy it until it was on offer as part of the 12 Days of Kindle.

I had a bit of an up and down relationship with this book. It started very slowly and early on I did consider giving up (I need to work out a rule for when I can give up on a kindle book).  I was interested in Mabel particularly which is part of what made me continue. Having no children was so hard on her that she was prepared to move to a rather inhospitable part of the world just to escape the pain.

In a way I sympathised with Mabel but sometimes I just wanted to tell her to stop being so stupid. Her thoughts and decisions were so emotion based that she didn’t seem to even realise where they might lead her, and when they were just absurd.

Once the child entered the story I started to enjoy it however. I think part of it as knowing how much Mabel wanted it, and despite my annoyance with Mabel I did want her to be happy.

The imagery of Alaska was rather good too. I liked the contrasts between the harshness and the beauty of the environment.

The end for me was rather abrupt. I think it could have ended better earlier or needed to be extended a little more for a more satisfying conclusion.

As for the parallels with the fairy story. It was nice in a way but it was also part of what made me annoyed at Mabel.

3/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£4.99)

Paperback (£3.84)

Hardback- Large Print (£20.78)

Other Reviews:

The Little Reader Library

Book Journey

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

Between the Pages

Heavenali

Roxploration

Have I missed your review? Link me up in comments and I will add it here.

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Filed under Contempory, Fantasy, Fiction review

Life After Life- Kate Atkinson


Disclaimer: I was given an advance copy of Life After Life free of charge by the publisher (via netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (from amazon)

What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.

What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?

Review.

I really did not want this book to end, it was, just, wow, there’s no words! I’m sad that it ended when it did. I have that sort of melancholy feeling you get from finishing a book that’s really special. I can’t remember the last time I felt that, maybe as far back as The Elegance of the Hedgehog (and that was back in 2010)? In some way it’s greater because the story didn’t have to end there. The nature of the story means it never really had to end, although I suppose if it didn’t end Atkinson would still be writing it and I wouldn’t have got to read it at all!

How can I describe this book? It’s a sort of epic Groundhog Day. It’s strange how everything seems sort of inevitable, even though Ursula has lived it before, has knowledge from that former life, even though you know she should fix it you’re scared that the same thing will just happen again, and again, and again. You’re shouting at her. You know what’s going to happen and there’s a sadness, and a dread, somehow you don’t think she’ll fix it.

I think that shows something of Atkinson’s writing talent, and ability to get you into a story, that your emotions trump your logic, every, single, time.

I loved Ursula, when everything changed, however she decided to live that life, she was still, undeniably Ursula, and that’s probably a hard thing to achieve. I enjoyed the whole family dynamic too, and that was something which barely changed.

A lot of the story focused around the second world war, which is a period of time I like to read fiction about. It was interesting though because Ursula’s different lives meant you could see the war from different angles, and with a sort of hindsight which was built into the novel, rather than from the reader living in a different time.

I’ve never read any Atkinson before, she’s known for crime stories, which aren’t generally my thing, but I may read more of her now.

5/5

Life After Life is released on 14th March, you can pre-order it now:

Kindle (£8.50)

Hardback (£10.63)

Paperback– released September (£10.09)

Other Reviews:

Sam Still Reading

Have I missed your review? Link me in comments and I’ll add it here.

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Filed under Contempory, Fantasy, Fiction review, Historical

The Woodcutter- Kate Danley


This book was read as part of the Out of Your Comfort Zone Challenge

“2) Go to amazon’s book page and pick a section your don’t usually read from, try to make it a different section to option 1. Look at the bestsellers list and read the number 1 spot, if it’s part of a series read the first in a series.”

The Woodcutter was the number 1 bestselling kindle graphic novel

Synopsis (from amazon)

Deep within the Wood, a young woman lies dead. Not a mark on her body. No trace of her murderer. Only her chipped glass slippers hint at her identity.

The Woodcutter, keeper of the peace between the Twelve Kingdoms of Man and the Realm of the Faerie, must find the maiden’s killer before others share her fate. Guided by the wind and aided by three charmed axes won from the River God, the Woodcutter begins his hunt, searching for clues in the whispering dominions of the enchanted unknown.

But quickly he finds that one murdered maiden is not the only nefarious mystery afoot: one of Odin’s hellhounds has escaped, a sinister mansion appears where it shouldn’t, a pixie dust drug trade runs rampant, and more young girls go missing. Looming in the shadows is the malevolent, power-hungry queen, and she will stop at nothing to destroy the Twelve Kingdoms and annihilate the Royal Fae…unless the Woodcutter can outmaneuver her and save the gentle souls of the Wood.

Blending magic, heart-pounding suspense, and a dash of folklore, The Woodcutter is an extraordinary retelling of the realm of fairy tales.

Review

Well first off what the hell was this doing in the graphic novel section? Graphic novels do need t have pictures right?!

So the story itself. It was a pretty good premise. A blending of different fairytales gone wrong with the woodcutter (you know, the one who saved Red Riding Hood, because Princes aren’t always all that) having the job of fixing everything.

I’m not sure I can really say that the premise met up to its promises however. The beginning was rather good and got me interested but the further I read through the story the more it seemed like Danley was trying too hard to fit in as many fairytale characters and creatures as she could and sometimes it didn’t really benefit the plot.

I did like the woodcutter however, and especially the idea that he was more than he seemed, rather a guardian of the worlds which intersected in his wood than actually a simple woodcutter.

It was an easy read, and fairly entertaining, but I didn’t really think it was anything special.

3/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£3.99)

Paperback (£8.99)

Other Reviews:

If you have reviewed this book please leave me a link in comments and I will add it here.

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Filed under Fantasy, Fiction review

The Woman Who Died a Lot- Jasper Fforde



The Woman Who Died a Lot was read as part of the Wishlist Challenge.

This is the seventh book in the Thursday Next series. You can read my reviews of the previous 5 Thursday Next books by using the Thursday Next or Jasper Fforde tags.

Synopsis (from Amazon)

The BookWorld’s leading enforcement officer Thursday Next is four months into an enforced semi-retirement following an assassination attempt. She returns home to Swindon for what you’d expect to be a time of recuperation. If only life were that simple.

Thursday is faced with an array of family problems – son Friday’s lack of focus since his career in the Chronoguard was relegated to a might-have-been, daughter Tuesday’s difficulty perfecting the Anti-Smote shield needed to thwart an angry Deity’s promise to wipe Swindon off the face of the earth, and Jenny, who doesn’t exist.
And that’s not all. With Goliath attempting to replace Thursday at every opportunity with synthetic Thursdays, the prediction that Friday’s Destiny-Aware colleagues will die in mysterious circumstances, and a looming meteorite that could destroy all human life on earth, Thursday’s retirement is going to be anything but easy.

 Review

As with the previous book The Woman Who Died a Lot read much more like a series book than the previous books did. That is that it is harder to understand if you didn’t read the previous books.

I found that this book was a little more predictable than the others. I quite often guessed what was going to happen before it did, which hasn’t generally been true of the Thursday Next books. However enough was confusing and there were enough twists that I didn’t guess everything, so it was still exciting and intriguing enough for me to want to keep reading it.

I did kind of miss the bookworld element which wasn’t in this book, and the literary references were a bit less frequent.

Eagerly awaiting the next one now.

4/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£5.59)

Kindle (£4.99)

Hardback (£10.87)

Other Reviews:

Alison @ Piling on the Books.

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Filed under Contempory, Crime, Fantasy, Fiction review

The Time Keeper- Mitch Alborn


Disclaimer: This book was provided to me free of charge via netgally in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (from Amazon)

In this stunning new novel, the inventor of the world’s first clock is punished for trying to measure time. He is banished to a cave for centuries and forced to listen to the voices of all who come after him seeking more years for themselves. At last, with his soul nearly broken, Father Time is granted his freedom, along with a mission: a chance to redeem himself by teaching two earthly people the true meaning of time.

He returns to our world – now dominated by the obsession with time he so innocently began – and commences a journey with two unlikely partners: one a teenage girl who is about to give up on life, the other a wealthy old businessman who wants to live forever. To save himself, he must save them both. And stop the world to do so.

Gripping, simply told and filled with deep human truth, this unforgettable story will inspire readers everywhere to reconsider their own notions of time, how they spend it and how precious it truly is.

Review

The Time Keeper has everything you would expect from Mitch Alborn, a bit of sadness, a bit of thoughtfulness, a feel good ending and the ability to move.

At first I wasn’t that keen. It wasn’t bad. I just felt that more could have been made of how ‘Father Time’ invented time. In fact I barely even saw it as him inventing time.

One the more modern side of the story got going however my interest increased. I had a bit of a love hate relationship with the teenage girl. She was naive, and a bit of a drama queen, but I understood her. She seemed like a real teenager (and not the ‘popular’ type girls you so often get in books and films.

I didn’t like the old man at all though. He was so self-centred, even when it came to the ones he supposedly loved.

I think maybe it was good to have a hate element to those two characters however, it made the feel good element better.

What was best however was when Father Time came to our modern world. It was interesting to see the world through his eyes, and it was when the book really got going.

If you’re a fan of Alborn you should enjoy this one, and you may be interested if you are a fan of historical fiction too. If you’re not sure at first it is worth the perseverance.

3.5/5

The Time Keeper is released on 4th September in Hardback and on the Kindle. You can pre-order it on Amazon now:

Hardback (£7.40)

Kindle (£5.99)

Paperback (£6.99)- Date to be announced

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Filed under Contempory, Fantasy, Fiction review, Historical

Catching Fire- Suzanne Collins


Image from Amazon

Catching Fire is the second book in The Hunger Games Trilogy. Read my review of the first book here

Synopsis (from Amazon)

The second book in the ground-breaking HUNGER GAMES trilogy. After winning the brutal Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta return to their district, hoping for a peaceful future. But their victory has caused rebellion to break out … and the Capitol has decided tat someone must pay. As Katniss and Peeta are forced to visit the districts on the Capitol’s Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. Unless they can convince the world that they are still lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying. Then comes the cruelest twist: the contestants for the next Hunger Games are announced, and Katniss and Peeta are forced into the arena once more.
Review
For some reason I appear to have low expectations of these books. For the first one it sort of made sense, but I really liked that one so surely that should give me high expectations of this one. I guess I thought the whole going back in the arena thing would be a bit much of a stretch, sort of trying to keep the story going past where it should end (which is something I dislike because it just feels like they are trying to get more money out of you). Actually though I was happy to find myself proven wrong (again). In some ways I even enjoyed this one more than the last. It had a bit of a puzzle to it and more story lines to follow. Still can’t say I really like Katniss though.
5/5
Buy it:
Kindle (£3.47)
Paperback (£3.86)
Other Reviews:
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Filed under Dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction review, YA

Bears, Recycling and Confusing Time Paradoxes- Greg X Graves


Image from Amazon


Synopsis (from Amazon)

Do you want to recycle but aren’t sure how? Are you concerned that a potential suitor may be a vampire? Have you attended a job interview only to be greeted by Hideous Telepathic Space-faring Lizardmen in Mansuits? The Guide to Moral Living in Examples educates on these and many more common moral conundrums, offering bite-sized advice for nearly every improbable situation. Fueled by years of unintentional research on the connections between robotic bears, talking tattoos, and the best type of soap to remove irremovable rings, Greg X. Graves gives simple, friendly yet essential guidance on the twisted path to moral life. With an introduction by Brenton Harper-Murray and stunning illustrations by Jeff Bent, this anthology is a must-have for young and old aspiring moralists alike.

Review

Well what can I say. This book was completely crazy, weird, like no other book I have read before. A first I liked the strangeness. It was kind of funny, especially when the morals at the end seemed to have barely anything to do with the story- or even when they had to much to do with the story! But after a while it began to seem just a little to strange- almost as if Graves was trying hard to be unconventional. Now I like things that are a bit beyond the norm but by the time I was about halfway through I was beginning to long for something a bit more, well, ‘normal’.

By themselves the stories were entertaining and funny. Graves use of imagery was quite incredible in parts, and even though the stories he told were completely unbelievable he wrote them in such a way that made them quite easy to imagine. I think my main real problem was that I read the book all in one go. I imagine if I had read each story as an individual story, alongside another book, I would have found it easier.

3/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£0.77)
Paperback (£6.29)

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Filed under Fantasy, Fiction review, Humour

Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince- J.K. Rowling


Image from Amazon

This book was read as part of the Harry Potter read-a-long.

Synopsis (from Amazon)

‘In a brief statement on Friday night, Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge confirmed that He Who Must Not Be Named has returned to this country and is once more active. “It is with great regret that I must confirm that the wizard styling himself Lord – well, you know who I mean – is alive and among us again,” said Fudge.’ These dramatic words appeared in the final pages of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. In the midst of this battle of good and evil, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince takes up the story of Harry Potter’s sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, with Voldemort’s power and followers increasing day by day …

 

Review

Oh dear I am a bit late with this one aren’t I? November’s read for the Harry Potter read-a-long. I almost finished it in time, I finished on the 1st December so only a day over but it’s taken me up till now to actually write this post.

Half-Blood Prince is my favourite Harry Potter book along with Chamber of Secrets. I especially like learning about Voldemort’s background, and I would probably quite happily read a book just about his rise to power, as a sort of prequel. There is quite a romantic level to this book too, I think we know by now where things are going in this sense. Initially one of the pairings I wasn’t too happy about, mainly because it just seemed too predictable and…perfect, but it grew on me.

And of course we know know what everything has been leading up to.

5/5

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix- J.K. Rowling


Image from Amazon

I re-read this book as part of the Harry Potter read-a-long.

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Dumbledore lowered his hands and surveyed Harry through his half-moon glasses. ‘It is time,’ he said, ‘for me to tell you what I should have told you five years ago, Harry. Please sit down. I am going to tell you everything.’ Harry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizadry. He is desperate to get back to school and find out why his friends Ron and Hermione have been so secretive all summer. However, what Harry is about to discover in his new year at Hogwarts will turn his whole world upside down …But before he even gets to school, Harry has an unexpected and frightening encounter with two Dementors, has to face a court hearing at the Ministry of Magic and has been escorted on a night-time broomstick ride to the secret headquarters of a mysterious group called ‘The Order of the Phoenix’. And that is just the start. A gripping and electrifying novel, full of suspense, secrets, and – of course – magic.

Review

Considering that Order of the Phoenix is the longest Harry Potter book I feel that very little of importance really happens in it. After the ending of Goblet of Fire I must admit I would have expected a really action packed book, but really it isn’t. That’s not to say it has nothing of importance to the overall Harry Potter storyline. The prophecy is of utmost importance, and some of the knowledge about Voldemort and the Order are useful later on too. Of course to say a book contains little of importance doesn’t mean it’s not good. In fact as a stand alone book Order of the Phoenix is quite possibly my favourite. I really enjoy reading about DA (yes DA not the DA, that would mean the Dumbledore’s Army, which makes no sense). I love hating Umbridge, in the same way I liked hating Snape in the early books, it actually makes her a really entertaining character. Oh and Fred and George’s antics in this book are a favourite bit too, especially the ‘Give her hell from us Peeves’. Awesome. I wish there were more fights like the one between Voldemort and Dumbledore too. The battles are good but you never see that expanse of magic again, and haven’t before. Oh and the introduction of Luna who is my very favourite character.

Plus you know this is the book which really introduced me to Harry Potter fandom. There is no greater praise.

5/5

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban- J.K. Rowling


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Image via Wikipedia

This book was a re-read as part of The Harry Potter Read-A-Long.

This review contains spoiler for the Harry Potter series

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Harry Potter is a wizard. He is in his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It’s always a relief after summer with the Dursleys, however, Harry doesn’t realise that this year will be just as eventful as the last two! The atmosphere at Hogwarts is tense. There’s an escaped mass murderer on the loose, even the Muggles have been warned. The sinister prison guards of Azkaban have been called in to guard the school and Harry, Ron and Hermione rapidly discover why all witches and wizards live in fear of being sent to Azkaban. Lessons, however, must go on and there are lots of new subjects in third year – Care of Magical Creatures and Divination among others. Plus the delights of Hogsmeade, the only village in the UK entirely populated by the magical community.

Review

I know this book is a favourite among many of Harry’s fans but of the books I’m read so far it’s been the one I’ve looked forward to the least. It’s not my least favourite but it is far from my favourite and my excitement about the read-a-long has abated a little. I was trying to stop myself reading The Prisoner of Azkaban at the beginning of the month but suddenly the end of the month was here and I was worried I wouldn’t finish it in time! Luckily I finished it today just within the time!

Having said this is not my favourite there still are a lot of things I like about it. Not least of all. I love the introduction of Lupin in this book, I think he remains my favourite teacher, or at least my favourite Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. In fact Lupin remains a favourite character of mine all the way through, despite his behaviour in Deathly Hallows. I also quite like hearing a little bit about James’ time at Hogwarts and his friends, and finding out a little about what happened the day Harry’s parents died. Those who know my love of Harry will confirm I’ve always been very interested in back story. However Marauder back story, although interesting is not something I feel the need to explore, I would much rather read about Voldemort’s school days. I think that’s one of the reasons I don’t like Prisoner of Azkaban so much, it’s very light on Voldemort. Despite that I do think it’s important in Voldemort’s gradual rise to power

5/5

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Mini Review: Tales of Beedle the Bard


This review is more from memory than from a recent read, but I wanted to mention it

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a book of Wizard’s Fairy Tales. It features strongly in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and the story of the Hallows is taken from it. It’s a charming little book, the fairy tales follow a structure which will be familiar to anyone who has ever been told a fairly tale, but they are completely new tales. Of course the Tale of the Three Brothers is the one which is interesting in terms of the series itself, as it is the tale of the hallows, but in terms of The Tales of Beedle the Bard we already know the story from Deathly Hallows. My favourite is The Fountain of Fair Fortune, I’m not really sure, maybe just because it’s the closest to a ‘muggle’ fairytale. The book also includes notes and a forward written by Dumbledore, which is funny and well worth the read.

Don’t forget to enter my Harry Potter Giveaway, entries close tomorrow.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Image via Wikipedia

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets- J.K. Rowling


Cover of "Harry Potter And The Chamber Of...

Cover via Amazon


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the second book in the Harry Potter series and was read as part of the Harry Potter read-a-long

Synopsis (from Amazon, adapted by me)

Harry Potter is a wizard. He is in his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Little does he know that this year will be just as eventful as the last …even getting there is an adventure in itself! The three firm friends, Harry, Ron and Hermione, are soon immersed in the daily round of Potions, Herbology, Charms, Defence Against the Dark Arts, and Quidditch. But then horrible and mysterious things begin to happen. Harry keeps hearing strange voices, and sinister and dark messages appear on the wall.

Review

How much I love his book, for the longest time it was my favourite Harry Potter book, and now it shares that position with Half-Blood Prince (if you have read both you can probably guess what I liked about these two). I must admit part of what I loved about this book is that I felt I was looking for it for forever after having loved Philosopher’s Stone- I must have missed it immediately though because I don’t have a first, or even second edition. My joy when I found it, finally, though was so strong.

I must admit this is the one book where I really like Ginny, and it’s a book where we first really see her (apart from a small couple of glimpses in Philosopher’s Stone) [highlight for spoiler]as well as a book where Ginny is a very important character. I guess I like the funny little moments when she is in front of Harry she seems so young and innocent [highlight for spoiler] and yes I think that picture of her is important, you would never in a million years suspect Ginny, or at least not until she was going to tell Harry and Ron.

Something I do find about the book though is that it really is very, very dark. I know they say that the books get darker, and maybe in ways they do, certainly there is more of a threat a little later on, but at least that threat is known. I mean nobody knows what is happening in the school, nobody knows who is controlling what is happening, and Harry is hearing voices in the wall. Sometimes an unknown horror is worse than one that you at least know something about, at least with the later books they knew the threat was Voldemort and they knew, at least up to a point what they would get from him. Even when you know what this horror is it still seems so unknown and impossible to control [highlight for spoiler]I mean even Voldemort can’t kill you by simply looking at you! (As they say in Potterwatch (Deathly Hallows:

“So, people, let’s try and calm down a bit. Things are bad enough without inventing stuff as well. For instance, this new idea that You-Know-Who can kill with a single glance from his eyes. That’s a basilisk, listeners. One simple test: Check whether the thing that’s glaring at you has got legs. If it has, it’s safe to look into its eyes, although if it really is You-Know-Who, that’s still likely to be the last thing you ever do.”

And that’s not even mentioning giant spiders, or an angry Snape!

What I really like about this book though is the information we get about Tom Riddle. It’s really interesting to see where he came from, and a bit of what he was like in school. I find it interesting that even early on I liked this aspect, even when I did not know how important it would turn out to be later on

5/5

Don’t forget to grab your chance at winning the whole Harry Potter Series in my giveaway

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Syren- Angie Sage


The cover art for Syren from the Septimus Heap...

Image via Wikipedia

Syren is Book 5 in the Septimus Heap series

Synopsis (from Amazon)

In the fifth book of this Magykal series, Septimus and his friends find themselves on an island whose secrets are as dark and dangerous as its inhabitants. Septimus Heap returns to the House of Foryx with Spit Fyre to pick up Jenna, Nicko, Snorri, and Beetle. But the journey home does not go well and when Septimus and his friends are caught in a storm, Spit Fyre crashes into the Rokk Lighthouse. They are rescued by the lighthouse keeper who is disturbingly sinister, and who has an equally sinister cat …And all the while, Septimus is trying to fight the strange pull he’s feeling to the island and its mysterious secrets.

Review

There is something about the Septimus Heap series in that it takes a while to really get going, you get hints that it will get exciting but it’s only towards the end that it actually becomes exciting with a gradual build. his was still true of Syren, although I do think it got going a little quicker than the previous books. I think I am enjoying the stories more as we go through the series as well, and whereas before I read the other books without and real anticipation I am actually really looking forward to Darke, I just wish it was out already!

Really my main problem with this series is that it isn’t much of a series in the way the books link together. In some ways this one was linked to the other books, and I can definitely see how it may link to the next book, but it also seems in some ways unneccessary to the series as a whole, and as if Sage was just trying to stretch out the books.

3.5/5

 

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Dragon’s Pupils: The Sword Guest- Martin Chu Shui


Image from Goodreads

I was given a copy of this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (from Amazon)

The story centers on Liz, born of half Australian and of half Chinese descent. Growing up in Australia, she isn’t very interested in her father’s ancient Chinese stories. She is concerned with problems that are far more contemporary — such as environmental issues, and particularly her friend’s handsome brother who is an environmental activist. But her disinterest in Chinese culture changes when her two worlds collide, after a catastrophic accident sets thousands of ancient monsters loose near her home. Suddenly Liz must learn many new skills and call on all of her Chinese heritage if she is to prevent the monsters from destroying Earth. Helped by her twin brother and best friend, Liz sets out to discover why the monsters exist and how to stop them. When she is injured in a battle, she must travel to China to seek a cure that is spiritual as much as it is physical. But can she find the old man who can help her before the monsters catch her? How will she manage in a country that is so strange and yet so familiar? And can she learn enough about a world she has ignored to stop the monsters in time?

Review

I really respect the author of this self-published book, I think it must take a lot of courage to put yourself out there in the way he has by choosing to self publish. I really, really wanted to like this book because I am all for supporting new writers and self published writers.

When I first read the synopsis of this book I thought it sounded a little strange but it did sound unique and so many books are just same old, same old these days. I thought the plot did sound interesting if a little hard to pull off, and if it was done well it could make a fantastic book. I’ll give this to Chu Shui, the element of the book that I was most unsure about, that of the magic pen, was done pretty well. When it was first introduced I thought it could give lots of opportunity, even if it did remind me a bit of Penny Crayon! Unfortunately I don’t think the magic pen idea was utilized very well, in fact the initial idea of it was barely used, and I did think it could have been used to great effect and made a unique plotline. In some way it gave me the impression that the author didn’t really know what to do with the idea, or if he did that it wouldn’t make enough of a story so he decided not to make it a major plot point.

When it came down to it I felt that a lot of the time Chu Shui was trying to stretch the story to make it into a full book. The fight scenes became very repetitive which made them somewhat predictable. After a while I  became bored with what should have been the most exciting parts of the book and I began to get the impression that the battles were added because the author felt that the story was getting boring. If my impression is true it’s a real shame because I generally prefered the sections between the battles. I liked the way that Chu Shui used old chinese tales to link to how Liz and her friends should fight, I particularly liked Liz meeting the Grandfather and finding out about the history behind her methods. I know the whole book couldn’t be made of that, she needed to be able to apply what she had learnt, but I think sometimes it was cut down in favour of battle scenes.

I think this book could have been so much better. The premise was good but it felt like I was reading a first draft (and not an especially good one at that). With a bit more work and editing it could have been enjoyable, but I began to wish I had another book with me by the end.

But hey it didn’t bring out the feelings of hatred that I have for Twilight, so if you think it sounds good download it, it’s not expensive. Just don’t bother spending your money on the paperback.

2/5

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone- J.K Rowling


Cover of "Harry Potter and the Philosophe...

Cover via Amazon

I read this book as part of my re-read of the Harry Potter books

This review contains spoilers

Synopsis (from Waterstones)

Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy. He lives with his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley, who are mean to him and make him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. (Dudley, however, has two bedrooms, one to sleep in and one for all his toys and games.) Then Harry starts receiving mysterious letters and his life is changed forever. He is whisked away by a beetle-eyed giant of a man and enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The reason: Harry Potter is a wizard! The first book in the “Harry Potter” series makes the perfect introduction to the world of Hogwarts.

Review

Oh Harry how I have missed you! I didn’t realise until I was getting excited about every little bit of Philosopher’s Stone (if you follow me on twitter I am sure you will agree with me on this point!) how much I have missed Harry. Since the release of Deathly Hallows (the book not the film) my Harry Potter activity has dropped dramatically. I barely ever visit the Chamber of Secrets forums anymore, I don’t really use my Livejournal now except to read other people’s posts (and I didn’t talk about Harry on there much anyway, it was just very connected to the Harry Potter side of my life)., and unless you count my re-read of Deathly Hallows last year I haven’t read the books for years.

It’s a bit difficult for me to write a balanced review of Philosopher’s Stone simply because Harry Potter has been such a big part of my life for so long. I love it just because it’s part of Harry and part of my history. I am trying to remember how I viewed it when I first read it but it was so long ago that I can barely remember. I grew up with Harry so my first reading of Philosopher’s Stone was over 10 years ago.

I do know for sure this is my least favourite of the books. First time round I actually almost gave up within the first few chapters just because it takes a long time to get going. Of course I am glad I didn’t because by the time Harry got to Hogwarts I was beginning to really get into it. In truth I usually actually don’t start my re-reads at the beginning but skip to Hagrid’s entrance at the shack in the sea. This time though I decided I should do it properly and actually found myself really enjoying reading those bits I usually miss. I mean the bits when the letters come give a kind of exciting anticipation for what I know is coming up.

As I came further towards the end it struck me that although this is the lightest-hearted of the Harry Potter books in some parts it is pretty dark. I mean that image of Quirrel-mort drinking that unicorns blood is certainly very chilling, and when you are so engrossed in Harry’s world you can actually feel the revulsion Harry would feel from seeing that image. Then there is Quirrel having Voldemort sticking out the back of his head, that isn’t exactly a nice image either. Of course the way Harry wins in this book is amazing, and in some ways less scary, although you’re rooting for Harry there is something about the way he wins that seems so innocent and right, almost as if he is not really fighting.

I remember eagerly looking for the next book after I finished this one and now I am eager to start my re-read of The Chamber of Secrets.

4.5/5

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Queste- Angie Sage


Cover of "Queste (Septimus Heap, Book 4)&...

Cover of Queste (Septimus Heap, Book 4)

Queste is the fourth book in the Septimus Heap series

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Septimus faces a perilous quest to find Nicko and Snorri, who have been trapped back in time. Everyone at the Castle is realising that Nicko and Snorri’s chances of coming back are slim. Septimus, aided by Alchemist Marcellus Pye, learns of a place where all time meets: the House of Foryx. But how does he get there? Jenna and Septimus find Nicko’s notes from the past and discover that he knows of the House of Foryx as well and has been creating a map to plot the house’s hidden location. With the help of the Questing Stone and Nicko’s faded maps, will Septimus be able to save Nicko and Snorri? Meanwhile, Simon Heap has taken on Merrin Meredith, former apprentice to DomDaniel, as his own apprentice, giving Merrin an opportunity he has been waiting years for. With the help of a frightening creature called a Thing, Merrin plans to reclaim the identity he used to have …that of Septimus Heap.

Review

I found I got through this Septimus Heap book much quicker than the others. It still took a while to get going but the end of the previous book (Physik) felt like much more of a cliff hanger than the previous books in the series so Queste felt like more of a sequel than just another book with the same characters. I wanted to find out what had happened after the last book so I was eager to get going. I was pretty impressed to, I’ve liked the other Septimus Heap books but the series seems to be getting better the further I get into it and I found a big difference with this book. I think this book was a bit more individual, a lot of the time I find the Septimus Heap books could just be any other book about wizards, you know it has everything you would expect from a wizarding novel but nothing that really sets it apart. I found with this novel that it was more like Sage had created another world, the forest and all its contents felt rather original, although there were still sections that were the type of things that are pretty standard to fantasy novels (not that that’s a problem, it’s just nice to have something different).

There was one thing I didn’t like in this book though and that was the sections with Merrin. I can’t say I ever really liked Merrin but I had some sympathy for him and that was pretty much destroyed by this book, and it was more or less uneccersary. I think Sage could have filled his role easily some other way seeing as he was basically there to secure one small plot point. I thought using him to secure that point was actually a little unrealistic and I could think of a few other ways in which it could be introduced without using Merrin.

4/5

 

 

 

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Physik- Angie Sage


Physik by Angie Sage

Image via Wikipedia

Physik in the third book in the Septimus Heap series

 

Synopsis (from Amazon)

When Silas Heap unseals a forgotten room in the Palace, he releases the ghost of a Queen who lived five hundred years earlier. Queen Etheldredda is as awful in death as she was in life, and she’s still up to no good. Her diabolical plan to give herself ever-lasting life requires Jenna’s compliance, Septimus’s disappearance, and the talents of her son, Marcellus Pye, a famous Alchemist and Physician. And if Queen Etheldredda’s plot involves Jenna and Septimus, then Dark adventure awaits With heart-stopping action and endless wit, Angie Sage continues the fantastical journey of Septimus Heap.

 

Review

 

Considering the simplicity of the Septimus Heap range of books Physik took me a long time to read, but I have been ill so I blame that factor, sometimes when I’m ill I just don’t have the attention span for reading, my new addiction to Twitter probably hasn’t helped either, but then again there is always a distraction. I do think generally speaking this series has progressed in quality of writing  at  least since Magyk although I have still read book which are better written (and don’t think this is me being a reading snob, I know my own quality of writing is less than stunning, and up to a point I can enjoy writing which isn’t of great quality to the same level as I can enjoy something you could describe as literary, sometimes more seeing as more complex writing requires more energy to read…I feel I am going off on a tangent). I felt as if Physik’s plot was a little more planned than the other two, and while this did give more flow to the story and allowed it to be more complex it did give a slight sense that the plot was a little artificial, I suppose you have to balance the two aspects when you choose whether to plan carefully or more write as you think (the second is what I do, I guess that is pretty obvious!). The one thing that did feel really artificial was the introduction of Snorri, I really liked her as a character, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of her in the next book, but her introduction seemed more of a plot device and a convenience than other characters have and I didn’t really like that. At first her introduction puzzled me and I wanted to get back to the characters I knew but when I got further along I understood it and I actually thought that if her introduction had been written differently she would feel less like a plot device.
I feel like this review has been mainly negative but actually this has been my favourite book of the series so far, it’s more complex and the plot, while being a little slow to start has been more engaging. For the first time since I started this series I am actually looking forward to reading the next book in the series rather than just wanting to read it for the sake of finishing the series.

 

3.5/5

 

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The Graveyard Book- Neil Gaiman


Cover of "The Graveyard Book"

Cover of The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book was read as part of the Take a Chance Challenge

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Winner of the Newbery Medal When a baby escapes a murderer intent on killing the entire family, who would have thought it would find safety and security in the local graveyard? Brought up by the resident ghosts, ghouls and spectres, Bod has an eccentric childhood learning about life from the dead. But for Bod there is also the danger of the murderer still looking for him – after all, he is the last remaining member of the family. A stunningly original novel deftly constructed over eight chapters, featuring every second year of Bod’s life, from babyhood to adolescence. Will Bod survive to be a man?
Review

I’ve only ever read one book by Neil Gaiman before, Coraline, and I enjoyed it enough to want to read more but somehow never got around to it, despite loving the film Stardust and wanting to read the book. I did start listening to The Graveyard Book on Neil Gaiman’s website once, but I have low concentration for audiobooks and the sound wasn’t too good (possibly because of the recording quality, possibly because my old laptop didn’t have the greatest speakers). All in all the graveyard book has been on my wishlist for about five years.
I do kind of wish I had read The Graveyard Book when I was younger, when I read Coraline I found parts were actually scary, and I may have found this the same if I read it when I was younger, some parts were creepy but not actually scary. The atmosphere was built really well, you get an amazing sense of what the graveyard was like, both for someone who was comfortable there, and for someone who was not. I must admit that I didn’t like the action parts as much as the rest, Neil Gaiman builds atmosphere really well but the action seemed a little rushed and not especially exciting, in parts it was even a little predictable. I did enjoy it in all, and will probably look out for more Neil Gaiman in the future, but maybe I will try his adult novels next time.
4/5

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Flyte- Angie Sage


Cover of "Flyte (Septimus Heap, Book 2)"

Cover of Flyte (Septimus Heap, Book 2)

Synopsis (from Amazon)

The evil necromancer DomDaniel has been disposed of, but something Darke is stirring. A Shadow pursues ExtraOrdinary Wizard Marcia Overstrand around, following her every move, growing stronger every day. Septimus senses something sinister is afoot, but before he can act, Jenna is snatched – taken by the most unlikely kidnapper. Septimus must rescue his sister but does not, at first, realise what he will be facing. “”Flyte” is the second of Angie Sage’s engaging and energetic novels about Septimus Heap…We can’t get enough. More, please!” – “The Times”
Review
My memory is a little rusty on this one. I finished it over the weekend and I usually write my review the same or next day but haven’t been able to do that this time. As with the last Septimus Heap book I wasn’t bowled over with the writing style, although the standard stayed the same all the way through where it had got better by the end of Magyk. I did find myself a little more compelled to read this one too and it got going quicker, although it still took too long.
3/5

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I Am Number Four- Pittacus Lore


This was by book recommended by a loved one for the Take a Chance Challenge. My wonderful boyfriend lent it to me.

Synopsis (from Amazon)

John Smith is not your average teenager.

He regularly moves from small town to small town. He changes his name and identity. He does not put down roots. He cannot tell anyone who or what he really is. If he stops moving those who hunt him will find and kill him.

But you can’t run forever.

So when he stops in Paradise, Ohio, John decides to try and settle down. To fit in. And for the first time he makes some real friends. People he cares about – and who care about him. Never in John’s short life has there been space for friendship, or even love.

But it’s just a matter of time before John’s secret is revealed.

He was once one of nine. Three of them have been killed.

John is Number Four. He knows that he is next . . .
Review

Right from the start this book was predictable, I could have predicted what happened at the end right from the onset, although I couldn’t have predicted how we got there I could predict almost everything before I got to it. It was just so formulaic. It felt as if it was put together by a team trying to decide what teenagers  would most like. After all (sorry to break it to you guys) Pittacus Lore is not just one person, but a collaboration between James Frey and Jobie Hughes (hmm where have we seen James Frey lying before?). Okay maybe I am being a bit harsh, it was enjoyable enough, and an easy read, I pretty much read it in two days. The predictability reduced the excitement quite a bit, but I liked the characters enough to find the end moving, and I will probably read the next one, although I won’t rush out to buy it when it comes out.

All in all there are better, more exciting fantasy stories but if you are after an easy read with a bit of bite you can’t go wrong with this one

3/4

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One of Our Thursdays is Missing- Jasper Fforde


1. Marts: Ny Thursday Next!

Image by emme-dk via Flickr

Synopsis (from Amazon)

It is a time of unrest in the BookWorld. Only the diplomatic skills of ace literary detective Thursday Next can avert a devastating genre war. But a week before the peace talks, Thursday vanishes. Has she simply returned home to the RealWorld or is this something more sinister?

All is not yet lost. Living at the quiet end of speculative fiction is the written Thursday Next, eager to prove herself worthy of her illustrious namesake.

The fictional Thursday is soon hot on the trail of her factual alter-ego, and quickly stumbles upon a plot so fiendish that it threatens the very BookWorld itself.

Review

For the purposes of this review Thursday refers to the real life Thursday Next, Thursday refers to the written Thursday Next.

I found One of our Thursdays is Missing quite different from the other books in the Thursday Next series, not least because you could tell it was written Thursday who was speaking. Although the tone was similar the way in which Thursday approached things was markedly different to that of Thursday. Partly because of this I found the One of Our Thursdays is Missing was a little slow to start, however I did also find this about First Among Sequels so it may just be the pattern the series is taking, certainly in both there was more that needed to be explained,

Having said that having Thursday speaking made a big difference which somewhat slowed down the plot I did like the new Thursday. She was much more pondering and less action focussed than Thursday and it felt like she was discovering things along with the reader rather than leaving them puzzling. I suppose that could be a bad thing but at points she left little tantalising details which suggested that she knew more, I liked that because it made her seem more like a written person, like she was trying to make a narrative, and it kept me interested to find out what she knew.

There were a lot of things I did love about this book. I loved how where before there had been references to novels now there were references to writing, I especially liked when the characters got lost because of lack of references to who was speaking! I loved Thursday, she was like a softer version of Thursday and it was nice to have a little change, even if it meant the book was more pondering. I loved learning a bit more about the book world, about the politics, about how in joined up and how different areas interacted with each other, supported by the rather intriguing map at the beginning and the quotes from Bradshaw’s Guide to the Bookworld. There was less about the real world too, I always preferred the Bookworld side of the storyline so I liked that. Plus where the real world was included in the story I found it really interesting to see it from a fiction point of view.

Again the end seems to lead on to another Thursday Next novel which makes it seem more series like than it once was. In ways I don’t like that, it somehow makes Thursday Next seem more commercial, but I won’t complain about there being more to come!

As a side note the acknowledgements are well worth the read (I was on the bus when I finished, it’s not usually a section I read). There is a section about what happened while Fforde was writing One of Our Thursdays is Missing which is rather entertaining and makes me like him even more (and no, not just because he’s a fellow mac user!)

4.5/5

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First Among Sequels- Jasper Fforde


First Among Sequels

Image via Wikipedia

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Thursday Next is back. And this time it’s personal . . .

Officially, Literary Detective Thursday Next is off the case. Once a key figure in the BookWorld police force, she is concentrating on her duties as a wife and mother. Or so her husband thinks . . .

Unofficially, Thursday is working as hard as ever – and in this world of dangerously short attention spans, there’s no rest for the literate.

Can Thursday stop Pride and Prejudice being turned into a vote-em-off reality book?

Who killed Sherlock Holmes?

And will Thursday get her teenage son out of bed in time for him to save the world?

Review

I must admit to start off with I wasn’t especially impressed with First Among Sequels when compared to other books in the Thursday Next series, it seemed pretty slow to get going and it felt like more of an artificial sequel than the others had. It felt a bit like it had been written for the sake of writing another rather than because the series lent itself to a further book after Something Rotten. Having said that we did know that books would be written about Thursday at the end of Something Rotten and the idea of a fictional Thursday is a little too intriguing to pass by. The different Thursdays were very well done too, it created so much comedy, especially when the two fictional Thursdays were so different from each other. There were some very clever parts of this book too I especially liked (highlight for spoiler)when I thought the ‘real’ Thursday had won only to find out that the voice we presumed to be Thursday was Thursday 1-4, but then actually found that Thursday had planned for that all along! In fact I really liked all the playing round with the different Thursday’s identities.

By the end it did actually feel more like a series book than the others, because it definitely lends itself to there being a further book. I now understand why Jasper Fforde said that One of Our Thursdays is Missing is the first sequel that is really a sequel, and I can’t wait to get started on it,

In retrospect First Among Sequels could actually be my favourite Thursday book.

4.5/5

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Magyk- Angie Sage


Magyk

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This book is the first in the Septimus Heap series

Synopsis (from Amazon)

A baby girl is rescued from a snowy path in the woods. A baby boy is stillborn. A young Queen is taken ill. An ExtraOrdinary Wizard mysteriously resigns from his post. And all on the same night. A string of events, seemingly unconnected, begins to converge ten years later, when the Heap family receive a knock at the door. The evil Necromancer DomDaniel is plotting his comeback and a Major Obstacle resides in the Heap family. Life as they know is about to change, and the most fantastically fast-paced adventure of confused identities, magyk and mayhem, begin.

Review

I was given this book by a fellow Harry Potter fan who described it as the new series he was addicted too. It’s taken me a while to get round to actually reading it, partly because despite some of my favourite books being fantasy I’m not a big reader of fantasy as a whole, and partly because I didn’t want to compare Magyk to Harry Potter, because I knew it would be pretty hard to meet up. Luckily to compare the two would be quite difficult, apart from tragic beginnings, and similar aged main characters the two have very little in common. Plot wise there were some pretty good ideas going on but, partly because of the way Magyk was written I did find it very predictable, the main twist is given away because of some bad decision making- which may be on part of the publishers rather than Sage herself. I must admit a fair bit of the plot didn’ seem particully original either, partly because I think Sage had used myths to do with magic- which is probably a good thing, and partly because it was predictable. There were some really good ideas though, I particully liked the dragon ring and it’s surrounding storyline. I will read the rest in ther series, because I dislike leaving a series unfinished but I wouldn’t activelly seek them out.

3/5

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Something Rotten- Jasper Fforde


Something Rotten

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Something Rotten is the fourth book in Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series.

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Thursday Next, Head of JurisFiction and ex-SpecOps agent, returns to her native Swindon accompanied by a child of two, a pair of dodos and Hamlet, who is on a fact-finding mission in the real world. Thursday has been despatched to capture escaped Fictioneer Yorrick Kaine but even so, now seems as good a time as any to retrieve her husband Landen from his state of eradication at the hands of the Chronoguard.

It’s not going to be easy. Thursday’s former colleagues at the department of Literary Detectives want her to investigate a spate of cloned Shakespeares, the Goliath Corporation are planning to switch to a new Faith based corporate management system and the Neanderthals feel she might be the Chosen One who will lead them to genetic self-determination.

With help from Hamlet, her uncle and time-travelling father, Thursday faces the toughest adventure of her career. Where is the missing President-for-life George Formby? Why is it imperative for the Swindon Mallets to win the World Croquet League final? And why is it so difficult to find reliable childcare?

Review

I seem to forget just how much I love Thursday Next between reading one book and the other, this one was no exception. Funny, exciting, and rather odd. I love Thursday and I liked the addition of some of the new characters. How you can get so much humour from a baby I don’t know but I loved Friday, and I really liked Alan too…although I did miss Pickick’s ‘tricks’ a bit. I loved all the fiction related references and jokes, as always. I don’t think there is really anything specific I want to say about this one. Or at least not that I could say without spoilers. I think it has been my favourite Thursday Next so far though, I just wish I hadn’t waited so long to read it.

4.5/5

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Shades of Grey- Jasper Fforde


Synopsis (from Amazon)

Hundreds of years in the future, after the Something that Happened, the world is an alarmingly different place. Life is lived according to The Rulebook and social hierarchy is determined by your perception of colour.

Eddie Russett is an above average Red who dreams of moving up the ladder by marriage to Constance Oxblood. Until he is sent to the Outer Fringes where he meets Jane – a lowly Grey with an uncontrollable temper and a desire to see him killed.

For Eddie, it’s love at first sight. But his infatuation will lead him to discover that all is not as it seems in a world where everything that looks black and white is really shades of grey . . .

If George Orwell had tripped over a paint pot or Douglas Adams favoured colour swatches instead of towels . . . neither of them would have come up with anything as eccentrically brilliant as Shades of Grey.

Review

I will happily call myself a Jasper Fforde fan. I love the Thursday Next series and really like the nursery crimes series, when I heard Fforde had a new series coming out I was really excited but managed to hold myself off from actually buying it until it came out in paperback.I had heard that Shades of Grey was different from anything else by Jasper Fforde so was a little concerned that I might not like it. Initially I did find things a little confusing, probably because the world that Shades of Grey is set it is so similar but so different from our own, but after a while I began to understand a little more and as the story got going I began to get gripped by it, finding it difficult to put down.I would still say I prefer the Thursday Next novels because they’re a bit easier to get your head around but there are also things that I prefered about Shades of Grey. Overall I found the character’s more engaging. I especially liked Jane- she was so strong and didn’t care about what others thought of her so long as she was doing what she thought was right. I think she could quite easily be seen as a bit of a feminist icon. I liked Violet too because she was so beautifully horrible and manipulative, in some ways she was quite similar to Jane but she directed that energy in different ways. It was more serious than Thursday Next to in that it looked at issues we have in our world but from a different angle, I liked that because I like books that make you think, but it still had the familiar Jasper Fforde humour so wasn’t depressing,

I can’t wait for the next in the series.

5/5



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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- J.K. Rowling


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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Synopsis (from Amazon)

Harry has been burdened with a dark, dangerous and seemingly impossible task: that of locating and destroying Voldemort’s remaining Horcruxes. Never has Harry felt so alone, or faced a future so full of shadows. But Harry must somehow find within himself the strength to complete the task he has been given. He must leave the warmth, safety and companionship of The Burrow and follow without fear or hesitation the inexorable path laid out for him.

In this final, seventh installment of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling unveils in spectactular fashion the answers to the many questions that have been so eagerly awaited. The spellbinding, richly woven narrative, which plunges, twists and turns at a breathtaking pace, confirms the author as a mistress of storytelling, whose books will be read, reread and read again.

Review

I am a complete Harry nut but all the same it’s been a couple of years since I last read a Potter book, and I’ve only read Deathly Hallows a couple of times. Part of it is that there’s a sadness to this book other than the story itself. It’s the end of something which has been in my life for so long, and which has effected my life. If it wasn’t for Harry this blog would probably never exist because it’s Harry that started my internet life. I wanted to re-read Deathly Hallows after seeing the film, I felt I wanted to know it better- as well as I know the other books, and I wanted the satisfaction that doesn’t some from the film. I never really like the films, they just don’t match up to the books.

As far as the book itself is concerned it’s not my favourite (that jumps between Chamber of Secrets and Half-Blood Prince….can you see the common theme?) but it’s not my least favourite either. There is a lot of time when there isn’t actually that much happening. When they have no idea where to find a horcrux- or at least no probable idea. In fact finding out where the next horcrux is was pretty much good luck really, and not that much they actually worked out for themselves. That’s not to say it was boring. Maybe it’s my love for Harry that kept me reading, that I had to know how it ended? But I don’t think that would keep me reading a second and third time. I think that there was the right balance of realistic timing and events which kept the reader reading.

This book is by far the saddest for me. In a way it is sadder after the first reading because you anticipate what is coming. You’re sad before what makes you sad has actually happened. There was one bit which was less sad than the first time for me because I know what was about to happen, although it was still somewhat upsetting. (highlight for spoiler)This was when Harry thought he was going to die. I can remember being so shocked the first time and trying to convince myself that he couldn’t die , and I really thought he might. Deaths wise this book was so sad because there was a realism there. That war isn’t fair and the people who ‘shouldn’t’ die aren’t exempt. It’s not nice but it seems right, I think I would have disliked it if only people we didn’t care for died, because it would be like Rowling was trying to stop fans from being upset.

As for the controversial epilogue? I’m not a fan. It answered very little for me, and somehow made everything as the fans expected- not that that’s a problem, but it’s kind of too perfect, and it’s what I would have presumed for myself- I wanted to know other things. Some of it Rowling has revealed in interviews but I am still hoping for the rumoured encyclopaedia. I like to debate but it would be nice to know.

5/5

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The Big Over Easy- Jasper Fforde


Cover of "The Big Over Easy"

Cover of The Big Over Easy

Review written 7/08/09

Synopsis(from Amazon)

It’s Easter in Reading; a bad time for eggs; and no one can remember the last sunny day. Humpty Dumpty, well-known nursery favourite, large egg, ex-convict and former millionaire philanthropist is found shattered beneath a wall in a shabby area of town.

Following the pathologist’s careful reconstruction of Humpty’s shell, Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and his Sergeant Mary Mary are soon grappling with a sinister plot involving cross-border money laundering, the illegal Bearnaise sauce market, corporate politics and the cut and thrust world of international Chiropody.

As Jack and Mary stumble around the streets of Reading in Jack’s Lime Green Austin Allegro, the clues pile up, but Jack has his own problems to deal with.

And on top of everything else, the Jellyman is coming to town…

Review

Have been meaning to write this for nearly a week but don’t really have much to say. I really liked it, but not as much as what I’ve read from the Thursday Next series. It was funny and I loved all the nursery rhyme references. In a way that bit was better than the book references in the Thursday Next books because I’m more likely to know the original stories. My favourite character was Jack, I really thought he was great.

4/5

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The Well of Lost Plots- Jasper Fforde


The Well of Lost Plots

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This review was written 5/6/09

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Leaving Swindon behind her to hide out in the Well of Lost Plots (the place where all fiction is created), Thursday Next, Literary Detective and soon-to-be one parent family, ponders her next move from within an unpublished book of dubious merit entitled ‘Caversham Heights’. Landen, her husband, is still eradicated, Aornis Hades is meddling with Thursday’s memory, and Miss Havisham – when not sewing up plot-holes in ‘Mill on the Floss’ – is trying to break the land-speed record on the A409. But something is rotten in the state of Jurisfiction. Perkins is accidentally eaten by the minotaur, and Snell succumbs to the Mispeling Vyrus. As a shadow looms over popular fiction, Thursday must keep her wits about her and discover not only what is going on, but also who she can trust to tell about it …

With grammasites, holesmiths, trainee characters, pagerunners, baby dodos and an adopted home scheduled for demolition, ‘The Well of Lost Plots’ is at once an addictively exciting adventure and an insight into how books are made, who makes them – and why there is no singular for ‘scampi’.

Review

Again a book which fails to disappoint. Funny and exciting. I found this one a little slower to start than the previous two but once it got going the action was at least as good. As always some great funny bits, I particually liked the was was conversation, which was both humourous and a little confusing. I don’t think I really have anything to say much that I haven’t said before. I did find this book, sadder in a way (highlight for spoiler)because the loss was more psychological than in the past books, and for the reader it was hard to see Thursday forgetting about those she loved. I even almost cried when she forgot she as pregnant because that was her one remaining link to Landan and evidence that he had existed.

4/5

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The Confessions of Max Tivoli- Andrew Sean Greer


Synopsis (from Amazon)

Max Tivoli is writing the story of his life. He is nearly seventy years old, but he looks as if he is only seven – for Max is ageing backwards. The tragedy of Max’s life was to fall in love at seventeen with Alice, a girl his own age – but to her, Max looks like an unappealingly middle-aged man. However when Max reaches the age of thirty-five, with an appearance to match, he has his second chance at love. But tragedy befalls this star-crossed couple, and desperate measures are required.

Review

Okay I’ll get this bit over and done with. The moment I read the synopsis of this book I instantly thought of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (a book which has been on my wishlist since I saw the film when it was in the cinemas), and the  plot is very similar, except this book seems much sadder than the film of Benjamin Button was (I can’t comment on the book). It was something which put me off Max Tivoli, it seemed unoriginal, and if I had seen the book in-store I probably wouldn’t have bought it thinking that I should at least read the ‘original’ first. I didn’t see it in-store however, it was a bookring, and lots of participants had enjoyed it so I decided to go for it.

I can’t say it gave me more than I expected in terms of enjoyment, or even that it wasn’t what I expected really. I did enjoy it though. Essentially it was a love story. That Max was living backwards didn’t really make a difference to this. (highlight for spoiler)In the end I don’t think Alice really ever loved Max, even when they were married. If he was the same age as her the whole time I don’t think it would have been different. In a way it was less beautiful and less romantic than the plot of Benjamin Button, but in a couple of places it really was moving and brought me close to tears. And I think the idea odf Max always wanting to be with Alice was romantic, bordering on obsessive. I did find some sections a little slow, and it took a while to get going, but by the end I felt it had become rushed.

Character wise I didn’t like Max, he was selfish, and obsessive. He didn’t really care about Alice, just about having her and I think he would have given up anything (certainly he gave up lots) to get that. I didn’t really feel I got that much of a sense of Alice as a person, although I respected her individuality. Hughie was probably my favourite character, he was so accepting and devoted.

3/5

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Lost in a Good Book- Jasper Fforde


centre

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This review was written 29/3/09

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Thursday Next, literary detective and newlywed is back to embark on an adventure that begins, quite literally on her own doorstep. It seems that Landen, her husband of four weeks, actually drowned in an accident when he was two years old. Someone, somewhere, sometime, is responsible. The sinister Goliath Corporation wants its operative Jack Schitt out of the poem in which Thursday trapped him, and it will do almost anything to achieve this – but bribing the ChronoGuard? Is that possible?

Having barely caught her breath after The Eyre Affair, Thursday must battle corrupt politicians, try to save the world from extinction, and help the Neanderthals to species self-determination. Mastadon migrations, journeys into Just William, a chance meeting with the Flopsy Bunnies, and violent life-and-death struggles in the summer sales are all part of a greater plan.

But whose? and why?

Review

This book seemed much more like part of a series that The Eyre Affair did, partly because knowing what had happened in the previous book was fairly important (of course that couldn’ happen with The Eyre Affair because it was the first one!), and partly because at the end the story didn’t quite seem finished (highlight to view spoiler) while it was a conclusion in a sense and deffinately a good stopping point, the fact that Landon was still lost means that part of the plot was left incomplete, meaning you cannot get away with not reading the next book. I must admit this put me off the book a little as I felt I was (in a sense) being forced to read the next in the series, I would have read it anyway because I have enjoyed the series so far but I would have liked to feel I had some choice in it.

I found this story a little more confusing than the last too, with allthe jumping in times, between worlds and distortions in probability, but it was just as exciting. I also found that I understood less of the references to literature in this one- although I’m sure people who have read the books refered to would understand them, and well having read them would have added something to the plot it wasn’t necccersary. I do think because of this I prefered The Eyre Affair though, but not by a significant ammount. I want the next one now!

4/5

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Dead in the Family- Charlaine Harris


Synopsis (from amazon)

If you think your family relationships are complicated, think again: you haven’t seen anything like the ones in Bon Temps, Louisiana. Sookie Stackhouse is dealing with a whole host of family problems, ranging from her own kin (a non-human fairy and a telepathic second cousin) demanding a place in her life, to her lover Eric’s vampire sire, an ancient being, who arrives with Eric’s ‘brother’ in tow at a most inopportune moment. And Sookie’s tracking down a distant relation of her ailing neighbour (and ex), Vampire Bill Compton. In addition to the multitude of family issues complicating her life, the werewolf pack of Shreveport has asked Sookie for a special favour, and since Sookie is an obliging young woman, she agrees. But this favour for the wolves has dire results for Sookie, who is still recovering from the trauma of her abduction during the Fairy War.

Review

I can’t say this has been my favourite in the Sookie Stackhouse series. I enjoyed it well enough but it didn’t seem to reach up to what I expected from the last book. It didn’t really follow on from where the last book had left off very well, and there had been some promising storylines there. Eric’s maker turning up just seemed to detract from the overall storyline, a bit like the a filler in an anime- entertaining in itself but not very important in the grand scheme of things. There was a good chunk of Eric-ness at the beginning (which I always enjoy) but he was disappointingly lacking- despite how things had stood in the previous book. I also found there was little real action in this book, stuff happened but the expected action was rushed into the last few pages- it was almost like Harris realised she had built up too much to deal with and had to get rid of some of it.

Again I was surprised about the err…intimate…details in this book. Really why does it still shock me? I think this one was a little more graphic, but if you wanted you could probably miss those parts without ruining the story.

Still worth a read but Dead in the Family is certainly not the best in the series.

I find it amusing that an advert for True Blood just came on the TV.

3/5

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