Friday, 30 September 2016

Review: The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Big Sleep is one of those books that I never really knew if I’d get around to it. I would look at the book on Goodreads and think ‘I really need to read this’, then I would get distracted by another book, and in the end I decided I wasn’t interested enough to read it but I would put it on the backburner as a maybe. This cycle continued until I realised the university library contained The Big Sleep and some other Raymond Chandler books. Thus, the choice was taken out of my hands: I was to go into the library and hunt down the book.

I went into it with a mix of preconceptions, not of which really tallied up. I was told this was a violent book. I was also told you see more violence on the television in shows that are considered daytime television. I was told this book had a deep mystery you could sit and work out. I was also told the mystery was all over the place. I was told this book was easy to get through despite the time it was published. I was also told this book felt somewhat outdated. Thus, my notions were all over the place. I expected so much and so little all at once, I had an idea of what I would be given and yet I had no clue at all about what would arise. It was an odd place to find myself, leaving me both tentative and overly eager to pick up this book.

Due to this, the book was both more and less than what I had expected. I’m still not one hundred percent sure about my feels – I had fun, but my emotions are mixed into how I feel as a whole – and I feel as though this mashup of prior knowledge is to blame for the state I’ve been left in.

It’s a story that can easily be completed in one read: the story short and snappy, the chapters shorter and snappier. It needs some attention but it’s not a case where a slight wavering of attention will lead to massive confusion about the plot and characters. It’s an easy read, which grabs your attention every so often to ensure you’re keeping tabs on all that is occurring. Sometimes such a thing can make it easy for you to lose interest in what is going on, yet such is not the case here. You’re pulled in from earlier on and the grip is almost consistently tight throughout. I admit there were a couple of moments where my interest lessened slightly, but for the most part I was unable to put the book down.

In terms of my preconceptions, I’ll level with you regarding how I interpret each of them. In terms of violence, I say there is little. There are shots fired and fists punched, but it is nowhere near the level of the modern-day books in this genre. A fair amount of this violence is a product of the views at the time, a product of how people treated those of certain groups. In terms of the mystery, even I’m conflicted. It’s not one of those convoluted tales. You can work things out if you put your mind to it. At the same time, there seem to be quite a few leaps that appear out of nowhere. The main character’s synapses seem to be firing when a little bit more information is required to go beyond mere guesswork. This seemed to be a way to ensure so many different aspects of the story were brought to light, ensuring all the different criminal aspects were included. In terms of the book feeling outdated, I both agree and disagree. The slang was lost on me, if I’m honest. The ways in which certain groups were represented annoyed me, more than it probably should have. All of this works to show the era of the book. It is a great representation of the time. This does not mean it is outdated, it merely mean it does not jar with our views and knowledge of the world. Admittedly, it made it difficult to read at times – if nothing else, I was groaning whenever a woman was given a scene because of the way they all came across as carbon copied brainless broads – but it is much easier than trying to understand the language from hundreds of years ago.

Overall, it was an interesting read. It wasn’t as solid as I had hoped for, but it has certainly left an impression. I’ve now reached the internal debate of whether or not to continue the series – I want to, and yet it is not at the top of my list. I guess I’ll just have to see which of Chandler’s other works the university library actually contains. Hopefully, should I get around to reading them, the future books will be a bit more solid than this one.

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Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Review: From Helmand to Heywood

From Helmand to Heywood From Helmand to Heywood by Des Farry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’d like to start by saying thank you to the author for sending me a copy in exchange for a review. Whilst I’ll admit that it did sound interesting, it is far from my normal read. Yes, I try everything, but like so many I have preferences. Recently my preference has been for fantasy, and due to that I had to take a step back before picking up this one to read. I also feel as though being stuck in this fantasy-only rut lessened my enjoyment somewhat.

This is a very British book, one of those whereby I fear people off our little island will be somewhat confused about what is going on. The references, at the very least, will go over the top of their head. I can contest to this, in fact, as I’ve seen such a thing myself. I’ve said things to friends from outside of Britain in the past and they’ve looked at me as though I’ve lost my head, only for me to try and explain… often with an explanation failing to help. So yeah, it’s a very British book. Settings. Ways of life. Humour. Not the clichéd British, either. The real Britain.

Very true to life, the story at first felt a little bit off too me. I felt as though the stories weren’t linked in any way at all. I felt as though I was jumping from one to the other, without much by way of connections. This changed later in the book, but for a while I felt put out by the way the connections seemed to be there and not there at the same time. It was an odd place to be, an odd way to feel, and I found it hard to get into at first. I was intrigued to see where things would go, and with the story being so short I quickly had answers, and yet it took me longer than I had hoped for to find myself really pulled into the story.

From the start, however, the story does manage to pull smiles from your lips. It’s not one of those laugh out loud hilarious books where you can see the author spent days sitting thinking about how many giggles they would pull from people, rather this one is a much simpler darker humour. Not all will enjoy it, not all will get it, but it is there. In fact, I didn’t find all of it funny myself. I know there were more aspects that would have been amusing to other people, but there were enough to bring some smiles from me. It really is a case of where on the dark line your humour falls.

Slowly the story develops, coming to life as we’re pulled into the lives of the characters. As someone who is a massive lover of character development, I would have liked a little bit more. I’m simply someone who obsessed over this, though. The deeper into the character I can fall the better. Whilst I was given enough to imagine them, for them to form in my mind, I would have liked for a little bit more. Especially with how some characters came more to life than others.

My main issue, though, wasn’t even to do with the story. It was to do with the layout. The footnotes reminded me far too much of academic papers. I’m one of those people who dislike such things outside of my academic reading, even when it is done for some kind of effect. Despite telling myself not to, I always end up looking. Usually to be disappointed. I’m just not a footnote fan, in any sense of the word, but that is just a personal opinion. Additionally, for some odd reason the colour of the font kept changing. It would go from black to various shades of grey and back again throughout the story and this really distracted me. More than it should have, mainly because the overactive part of my mind kept picking up on it and highlighting the shift to me.

Overall, though, it was a decent enough read. I would have liked a little bit more from it, but it was good for a quick read. Once again, I’d like to thank the author for sending me a copy to review.

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Review: Empire of Storms

Empire of Storms Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My reviews for all of the Throne of Glass books have been somewhat lengthy, and I fear this will be the same. In fact, I fear this may be my longest one to date. I will try to prevent such from being the case, yet I cannot promise such a thing. Thus, I apologise in advance for what is to come – not only in terms of length, but also for the lack of coherence that will probably arise the more I write.

I entered the Throne of Glass fandom extremely late. It sat on my to-read list for a very long time, yet I was never crazy about pushing it to the top of my list. When Empire of Storms came out in paperback, when it was put on offer, I nabbed it as a way to force myself into reading the series. The first one had been sitting on my bookshelf for months, after all. I needed to get around to it in the end.

Upon reading book one, I wasn’t as crazy about it as I had hoped to be. It was good enough for me to round my rating up to four stars, but I wasn’t pulled into the fandom in the way many people were. In fact, I was far too aware of the flaws. If anything, this set out my feelings for the rest of the series – being too aware of flaws that would prevent me from being a crazy mad fan. Nevertheless, I continued on. Book two had a similar effect on me, yet book three won me over. I believe the third book will always be my favourite in the series. Oddly enough, that seems to be the book that caused quite a few people issues – mainly because of sinking ships. Book four was fun, but it wasn’t the same as book three. Then there was this one. It was better than book four, but it was no book three. There were too many flaws for it to be book three – and yet, it left me with so many feels.

Honestly, the feels. I cannot begin to explain them.

The ending was a kick to the teeth, if nothing else. A way to ensure I’ll be picking up book six as soon as I can. In fact, I’m already impatient for it. As I said, I’m not one of the super fandom, but I’m desperate for the answers to how things play out. My fingers are crossed that Maas will be brave when it comes to the ending, that things will end in the darkness that makes casual appearances throughout the books. I fear, however, that she will pamper to what the fandom wants. I fear she will never slip completely into the darkness that she keeps hinting towards, the darkness that has been promised since the very start. This isn’t a bad thing per se; it’s just not what I want. I want her to finally give in to the promise that has been lingering from the start, and maybe then I will be able to say ‘yes, the series is one hundred percent worth the hype’ rather than merely saying ‘yes, I understand the hype’.

I’ll get back to the ending, though. It’s best to start at the beginning. To work through my emotions in the same way the book worked with them.

I feel as though the beginning followed the usual route for any Maas book. Things were slow, once again. I expected things to start instantly, for the action to begin straightaway. Such was not the case. We had a few chapters of nothing really happening. Then, when things started to happen, it wasn’t what had been promised. I’d been expecting a book of war. I had expected this book to be a true battleground. It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that such was not to be the case. I’m holding out that the final book will do such a thing, yet I’m doubtful. I accept that Maas will write a decent enough ending, she’ll write something to bring everything together, but I doubt it will be what I want. I doubt it will be what is hinted at. As I’ve already stated, she doesn’t seem to go all out in regards to giving the readers what they want. She tries to offer up surprises, twists and turns, only to hold back on certain aspects. The war that has been building for so long will fall into that category, I fear.

Nevertheless, once I came to terms with the lack of actual battlefield scenes, I enjoyed the story that was offered up. At first there seemed to be too many different stories going on, stories that did not seem to be coming together. I’ve been enjoying the way all the different stories have existed, clearly always going to meet at one point, and yet for too long it was dragged out that they would not be crossing paths. I grew bored of certain scenes, with certain characters. Interactions were dull, clichéd. I grew tired of reading the same scenes from prior books being played out by different characters – the old ‘they hate each other but will come to be lovers’ and the ‘keeping secrets only to reveal them at a later date’. A lot of things read like the prior books. Things were not as new as they could have been.

I realise this review is a case of positive and negatives clashing together within paragraphs, as I said before I’m sorry. The book left me less than coherent and I’m trying hard to express everything I’m feeling in as few words as possible – thus, lack of real sense and order.

Overall, the first part of the book did very little for me. I was constantly left wanting more. I was enjoying it… and yet it wasn’t enough. I was confused as to how Maas planned to bring everything together. This is supposed to be the penultimate book and yet very much seemed to be happening. In fact, some aspects of the story seemed to be missing entirely. The events of certain characters seemed to have been forgotten about, and will probably be dumped on us out of the blue in the next book. Certain scenes could have been cut out as they didn’t really add much, could have been replaced with those missing details or simply removed to cut down the length of the book. Yes, things were occurring, but nothing seemed to be shifting towards a conclusion. How was the story to be brought to a close when nothing much was happening? If anything, more questions were coming about than being answered.

In fact, such a thing continued throughout the entire book. There were a lot of answers given, as so many things were explained. We get to see how things are really being brought together. Throughout the series, you have been able to see how things have been coming together, and this book does a lot to emphasise that. Such a thing is great, even if a lot of things were nowhere near as shocking as they could have been. It’s as though dragging certain things out has lessened the impact. I do not deny that it’s a wonderful way of connecting the details and that it is very well done… but I just wasn’t as impressed as I could have been if things had been handled somewhat differently. It simply wasn’t the world imploding reveal that it should have been. There was more build up and delay than was really necessary, especially with characters holding back information from one another. It was rather petty, actually.

That, actually, brings me rather nicely to my next point. My feelings towards characters in this book and the interactions that occurred.

Since book one I’ve admitted to a lack of interest in the romantic elements. If a romance fails to grab me, I’m not going to care. I’ve recently started to feel a slight ship… but that changed in this book. In this book, we were back to too much romance and I wanted it all gone. I wanted the focus to be on the war, not on the bedroom events. The scenes in this book… they were just a big no for me.

Maas depicts bedroom events as being life-changing events. Sparks fly. True love conquers all. The usual romantic drivel. I may not be an expert in the realm of bedroom events, but I’m more than aware that it does not play out the way Maas paints it to be. I’ve read cringe worthy free erotica that paints a more accurate description. I cannot help but think that Maas has fallen into the young adult trap where the little reads are brainwashed into believing the way things will play out in the bedroom will shift the earth. It simply doesn’t happen like that. Moreover, I cringe when reading it. Physically cringe at the words. It just… no. I felt the same way in regards to the scenes in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series. This just felt like much of the same.

It didn’t help that characters seemed to change so that we could reply the events from her other series. We have the sweet world shifting acts. We have the smutty and salty acts. We have the slow burners. We have the conquests. Basically, there’s a lot of bodily collision that I did not care for. It was unnecessary. I understand that the fear of death would have them wanting to do such a thing – but I wanted to read the details of the war and not their awkward bedroom scenes. I really could have done without it. It’s not even that I’m a prude – I’ve got enough erotica on my Kindle to show otherwise – it’s simply that I find the scenes Maas writes to be rather awkward. I get it that she will put romance in all of her books, but the sex can be removed and I’m sure things will work much better. Especially with how her sex scenes simply work to show how the sky will alight when the bodies collide.

Despite how critical I’m sounding, I did enjoy this book. Hence the four star rating.

The story did move forward. So many answered were given, and things did come together in many wonderful ways. Things weren’t as shocking as they could have been, but many things were great. It has left me with hope for what the last book will bring, even if I am tentative about whether or not Maas will manage to deliver. The ending in particular hit me hard. It was my favourite thing about the book, actually. One aspect reminded me far too much of her other series – secrets and romantic elements that I rolled my eyes at – but I like to pretend this aspect didn’t happen. It was so imbedded in all the action that was going on that I allowed myself not to be distracted by it. Had I allowed myself to be distracted I would have been super annoyed by how Maas has basically copied the ending of a book from her other series and altered it slightly.

Honestly, though, there is such promise for the last book. If you’ve come this far then you need to continue. How could you not continue? There is so much to come. In all honesty, I’m not sure how she’s going to cram it all into one book. I fear it will go one of three ways. Way one is that the book is ridiculously long, think Game of Thrones long – you know, the way some of those books go on and on and on. Way two is that more books are added to the series, which happens more often than people seem to realise and seems rather likely here considering all the loose ends that need to be tied up. Way three is that things are not address and we’re left with a less than perfect ending, but with the way Maas has being bringing things together I very much doubt this is what will happen.

Overall, I’m super curious to see what the last book brings us. This one didn’t end in the way I had anticipated, and whilst many aspects of the book did annoy me, as a whole it was a lot of fun. I’m more than a little bit impatient to pick up the final book – bring it on.

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Sunday, 25 September 2016

Review: Queen of Shadows

Queen of Shadows Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I feel as though I need to recant some of my earlier statements regarding this series. Whilst it will never be my favourite series, I’ve certainly found myself enjoying it much more than I had anticipated. So very much more than I had ever imagined I would. Whilst I will never be able to label myself one of the diehard fans – I’m far too aware of the many flaws for such a thing to occur – I’m certainly able to admit to an addiction to the series, an interest and desire that goes beyond anything my earlier review would probably have people believing.

The Throne of Glass series is actually worth the hype. With an average rating on Goodreads that is almost terrifying, I can understand why so many people are obsessed with the story.

Book one pulled me in. I spent most of my time focusing upon the flaws, but I was gripped by the story. It was an introduction to the series that left me wanting more. It was enough to confirm my interest. It wasn’t the best first book in a series that I have ever read, yet it was better than quite a few out there. I wanted more, and that is all you can ever ask for.

Book two left me with some rather complex emotions. I loved it more than the first. I was more annoyed with it than I was the first. It was a very complex situation. I did enjoy it, though. It left me even more addicted to the series. I was fearful of where things would go, as everything was far too clichéd in that book, but I secretly had my fingers crossed that everything would turn out wonderful. Therefore, I did not let myself be put off by the aspects of book two that did not sit right with me. I continued to hold out for the amazing series that everyone was speaking about.

Book three hit me hard. Oh so very hard. Harder than I had ever imagined. Book three let me understand why everyone loved the series so much. Book three opened up my eyes to the wonderful world. I wanted more. No, I needed more. After working through book three at such a rapid pace, I was more than ready to jump straight into the fourth book. Honestly, words cannot begin to explain the beauty of book three. It was all I had hoped the series would be, and it left me eager for this fourth book.

Queen of Shadows, the fourth book in the series, was another great read. It wasn’t quite the beauty and complexity of the third book, yet it was still wonderful. It continued on from book three, in terms of both the story and with how my emotions reacted. As with book three, it was a really strong addition to the series. By this point in the series, Maas has really worked out where she is going with the story. She knows who she is and what she wants. In retrospect, the first two books feel almost as though she was still trying to gain her footing. She had so much planned, you could see it from the very start with how everything is intricately connected, and yet it wasn’t until book three that we started to see everything smoothly flowing into one beautiful story. Book four continues with this progression.

In this one, so many aspects of the story are brought to a close. You know the ending is slowly looming in sight. Don’t worry, though, there is still plenty more to be dealt with. In fact, this book opens up even more questions in certain regards. It’s merely certain aspects of the overarching story that we see resolution for, aspects I will not go on to name for I hate being the type to give spoilers. Just know some things are brought to a close as new things come alight. It’s a wonderful mix of the two, the way any book in the middle of a series should work out.

Honestly, I want to say so much about the story progression but it’s so hard to do without spoilers. So much happens in this one. Every storyline moves in some way, every character shifts in one way or another. It is wonderful to see the story and characters developing in such a way. Things from the prior books can be seen in a new light. Things that may come to pass in the future books leave us expectant for what more is to come. There really was so much.

As always, though, there is that Maas signature storytelling whereby certain parts of the book seemed slow. I embrace large books, love them, and yet I felt as though certain scenes in this story could have been cut down. Some events dragged out, leaving me somewhat bored of storylines at some points. The end of the book was wonderful, as it always is, yet the earlier storytelling had the usual too many moments of slowness. As I’ve said, though, this is just a Maas trademark. I now embrace these, accept these, as being vital aspect of any story Maas decides to tell. Plus, I think a part of it may have been due to the fact that it took me a while to get my head around how we were using the other name for our main female character. I know this is all the progression of the story, but for a little while I was put out by the change.

Then there is the romance element. I’m finally on board with it! I know, I know, this is shocking. I’m not crazy obsessed, but I’m on board with this element of the story. For the first two books, I just didn’t care. In fact, I wanted the romantic element removed. I realise I’m in the minority when it comes to this, but I just couldn’t deal with it. Annoyed is not the word for how I was left feeling by the forced romance, it is too tame a word to be used to express my feelings about that part of the story. It just didn’t work. I simply could not deal with it. Then, book three brought us something new. There was focus on friendship, about developing as a person and connecting with those around you. It was refreshing. I think watching the friendships between the characters helped me to actually feel something when the romance became blindingly obvious. I mean, I knew it was coming. Book three was very much a beacon of foreshadowing romantic elements. Nevertheless, it was easier for me to accept the current romantic story than the story in the first two book. Whilst so many people are against this, whilst so many people want to go back to the way of the first two books, I say this is the romantic story that needs to keep moving forward.

Overall, it was another wonderful book. It wasn’t quite as hard hitting as the third book, yet it was wonderful in so many ways. It has worked to confirm my spot in the fandom, even if I’ll never be a super crazy fan. I’m more than curious to see what comes next, and book five is already being devoured.

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Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Review: Heir of Fire

Heir of Fire Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can safely say Heir of Fire is my favourite of the series thus far. It was so much fun, so much more than I had anticipated. Honestly, I cannot begin to explain all of the feels I’ve been left with. Even though I know this review will end up rather lengthy, I fear I will forget to mention some things. I really do have that much to say, it really did leave me feeling so much.

I don’t even know where to start. So many things, with no idea of where my starting point will be. Due to this, I apologise if the following review seems to jump around somewhat.

After finishing the second book, Crown of Midnight, I wasn’t overly crazy about where things were going. I enjoyed the second book and yet everything seemed far too predictable. I still wished to see where things were heading, but I feared there wouldn’t be much by way of surprise. I had this terrible sensation that the series would be like every other young adult fantasy series out there. Fortunately, my fears were ridiculous. This book turned out to have so much more than the two prior books, bringing together so much and leaving me at a whole new level of excitement about where things were to go.

This book continued in the same way of Crown of Midnight, continuing to deal with the aspect of the first book that I wasn’t crazy about. Our main character continues to grow into her role of assassin, showing us why the first book was filled with so many references of how amazing she truly is. More importantly, for me, was the way people reacted to her. This time we have views that are more in line with how I feel towards her. People were sceptical of her role. People questioned whether she is as great as she claims. There is still the underlying aspect of her being so much better than everyone else is, but this time we get to see more of her. The second book showed us – to a degree – her role of assassin, and this third book showed us how some people deal with her role of assassin. In fact, through giving us a whole new cast of characters we got a lot of new fun interaction to watch.

Personally, I adored the new cast of characters. They offered us so much more, in terms of both the people we are following and the storyline. They were all a lot of fun. Some grew on me more than others did, but I enjoyed where each of their storylines went. They all opened up so many different aspects to the overarching story, each promising something new for the future books. Moreover, through having the characters in difference places it meant they were all given an equal amount of attention as the chapters changed from one to the other to keep us in the loop of what was going on.

Through flickering from one character to the other, however, it did mean the story was quite slow in places. The slowness has been a consistent throughout all of the books, though, so I wasn’t as bothered about it as I could have been. In fact, through the regular changes of perspective the book felt quicker than the prior books. There were still some moments in which the story felt as though it was lagging, but it was to a much lesser degree than the last book.

Furthermore, the romance wasn’t as overbearing as it was in the prior books. There was more focus on friendship than romance, which was nice to see. There was still romance to be seen, but it wasn’t screaming in your face on every single page. Mostly we dealt with the emotions relating to what had happened in the prior books, hence the focus upon friendship rather than romance. There were some annoying aspects relating to the romance, but I was so happy with how much the focus had declined allowing for the characters to develop so much.

Honestly, there really was so much development in this one. The characters all develop in so many ways – both the old and the new ones introduced to us – ensuring that the story moves forward. There really is so much promise as to what is to come in the future books. We’re given so much information, so many questions are answered, and yet we’re still left wanting more. We have ideas of what is going on, we know certain things will come to pass, and yet there are still so many possibilities for the future.

For me, this really was the strongest book so far because it gave so much. Characters. Story. Promises for the future. Development of the fantasy aspect. Compared to the first two books, this was such a strong four star read. The first two books were four stars, but low to mid four stars. Book three, on the other hand, is a strong four star. I was so pulled in, completing it in less time than it took me to finish either of the first two books, finding myself unable to put it down. Everything meant something. Everything worked. It really was wonderful in so many ways.

The trepidation that had developed when reading Crown of Midnight has evaporated. Heir of Fire has left me positive that this series is worth the hype. This one has left me so excited about what comes next. I need to know where the story heads next. I need to know what plays out for the characters. I really cannot put into words all the promise in this book. There really was so much. I know I’m missing out so much of what I want to say in this review – but it was just so good. I want to share each and every feeling, and yet to do so I know I would start getting too specific. It’s too good to go into specifics. You just need to read it, to experience it, and then you will understand.

As I’ve said already, my favourite thus far. I have high hopes of what else is to come.

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Sunday, 18 September 2016

Review: Crown of Midnight

Crown of Midnight Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I would just like to apologise in advance. I feel as though all the books in the Throne of Glass series are going to earn rather lengthy reviews. This is because my emotions are somewhat mixed. Thus far the books have been good, yet I am not receiving all I had been promised. I came in with such high expectations, and even with the foresight to know I’d be disappointed I’m still left wanting something more.

Anyway, enough of that, onto the actual review of the second book in the series.

Crown of Midnight took me much longer to finish than it should have, although I will admit to such a thing being a personal choice. I ordered Heir of Fire prior to starting this one – in fact, I ordered it when I was part way through the first book – and yet it took forever to arrive. I could feel the ending of this one coming, I knew a cliff-hanger of an ending looming in the distance, and due to this I wanted to be able to pick up the third book straight away. Thus, I slowed down my reading. I expected the book to arrive at the start of the week, I expected it to arrive days ago, and yet my reading of the book got slower and slower as Heir of Fire continued to evade me. Finally, it arrived. As soon as Heir of Fire arrived, I allowed myself to jump right back into the story. Truthfully, I’m both glad and annoyed that I did this. Whilst the ending has left me wanting to read the next one, it wasn’t to the degree I had anticipated. Part of me wishes I hadn’t slowed down my reading, part of me wishes that I had read it at my usual pace and picked up something else as I awaited the arrival of Heir of Fire. Oh well, it is done now. What comes next is important – and what comes next is that I will continue on with the series without a detour into other books.

Reading books at a slower pace than usual can often leave me enjoying a book less than I normally would. With this one, I don’t believe such to be the case. I feel as though my enjoyment would have been the same no matter what speed I read it at, no matter how many times I put the book aside. This is because I feel the same way I did with the first book: conflicted. As I’ve already stated, I’m enjoying the books. However, I’m not enjoying them as much as I had hoped to. I’m noticing many things that are annoying me, little bits and pieces that the big fans seem blind to. This is in no way a bad thing – I know I act in the same way when I’m truly enjoying a series – I just wish I belonged to that group.

I’ll start by going through this book in relation to the first, how it improved upon certain aspects. Then I’ll explain what bugged me.

My biggest issue with the first book was the whole assassin aspect. I promise to hold back on my rant this time. But, just so you get a general idea of what I’m talking about, I’ll give you one quick sentence: I did not consider our main character to be the assassin everyone promised me. I feel as though with this one that aspect of the story wasn’t improved on as much as it could have been, but there was some improvement. We got to see her in act, which was a big plus. She still wasn’t the assassin I had hoped for, but she was more of an assassin than she was in the first book. My fingers are crossed that this aspect continues to develop in the future books.

As with the first book, I found this one to be quite slow in places. There was more action as a whole, but there were still parts of the story where things seemed to lag somewhat. I know one hundred percent action happens very rarely in such stories, but these lacklustre scenes seemed more bountiful than should be in a tale with so much going on.

I feel as though part of this is because of the romance. As with the first book, I really didn’t care much for it. There was a more clear development this time, and yet I still didn’t care. Even when things unravelled into drama central, I found myself uninspired. I feel as though this will be one of those series where I won’t care at all about the romance aspect. I’d rather it was all cut out and we focused upon the assassin side of our main character. Despite this, however, we did get to understand the characters a lot more. There is quite a bit of change for them throughout this novel, and it was great to see. I just wish I could buy into the romance rather than sighing (and not the swooning kind of sigh, rather the bored kind of sigh) every time there was talk of the emotions of the heart.

In all seriousness, though, I really did enjoy the development of characters throughout this one. So many doors have been opened, so many possibilities opened up for the future books. There is a clear direction of where things are heading now, a clear story for each of the characters to follow. You know everyone has some kind of end in sight, some kind of purpose, even if you’re unaware of the specifics at this moment in time. You’re left with more questions about characters, you’re left wanting more from them, and this really works to make the book enjoyable. You’re pulled into their stories, you’re pulled into what is happening, and you cannot help but hope for the best as things play out.

Despite this, there were some new issues to be had.

Whilst the overall story was gripping, it was predictable in so many ways. Within the first couple of chapters, through the use of one simple sentence, it was obvious what trope was going to be used. The line was dropped so casually and yet seemed so out of place with what we already knew that it was clear how much meaning was behind the words. There was so much work following this to build up suspense and surprised, to twist things, that there was no shock at all when the truth came out. In fact, I became rather impatient for the information to be given. I even reached the point where I feared the information wouldn’t be given until the next book – and that really wouldn’t have sat well with me. Luckily, it was given; but the whole way in which it came about could have been done so much better. The entire book worked towards one point – one point that was made clear from one small line at the very start of the book. It really was a disappointment when it came out. Yes, it offers up more to the series. Yes, it is important information. However, it was far too obvious. It was far too clear from the outset, and it has been done so many times before.

Without saying what this outcome is, it is difficult for me to say more. Just know the ‘big reveal’ at the end of the book isn’t really much of a reveal, and I fear it is to set the tone of the rest of the series. I fear it is about to overshadow many of the aspects I was interested in. In all honesty, you can see such a thing happening within this story. For example, with the development of the magical system. I wished to see more magic in this book, and I got my wish. In fact, there were quite a few nice developments with that aspect of the story. However, in relation to certain points it was glossed over far too quickly. One character seems to get all the focus, when I want to learn more about the magic within others. New aspects were introduced and weren’t given all the attention they could have been, I hoped they would have been, because the attention was on building up a cloud of mystery around the reveal that was to come. I really do hope in the future books that the magic does continue, that the other characters get more attention. There really is so much brought to light in this book that everything needs to be given equal attention – if not equal, at least better attention instead of everything revolving around that one aspect. It makes it difficult for me to care about the centric story when the side aspects I care about seem to be brushed over far too quickly.

Overall, I’m not as excited about continuing the series as I was when I finished the first book. I’m still interested to see where things go, and I will be carrying on. However, I’m finding myself fearful that this series isn’t going to take me to the new and amazing heights everyone promised me. It will be fun, but I doubt it will ever enter my list of favourite fantasy series.

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Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Review: Throne of Glass

Throne of Glass Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m always tentative when it comes to reading the books everyone loves. Whenever there is a lot of hype I fear being let down. Due to this, it took me even longer to work my way around to reading this one than it should have. It sat on my bookshelf for quite some time, I kept looking at it and yet it couldn’t quite bring myself to read it. I feared I would be let down. I did not want to be let down. In the end, however, I did pick it up. Mostly because I found most of the other books in the series on offer, but still… the important thing is, I have now worked around to this book. I have jumped on the bandwagon, and – if I’m to tell the complete truth – I’m more than ready to become a member of the fandom.

I’ll admit that the notion of the story always interested me. It really was the hype that held me back. Due to this, I read the first two books in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series prior to this one. The series interested me more, with the storyline screaming out to me. Truthfully, I’m glad I did such a thing. When I started Throne of Glass, I had quite a few issues with the book. Knowing Maas was capable of so much more, having enjoyed A Court of Thorns and Roses so much, I continued on with hopes of the book improving. Fortunately, such a thing did happen. By the end of the book, I was enjoying it so much more than I’d believed at the start. It went from a three star book to a four star book.

Why wasn’t I enjoying it at first?

There are quite a few reasons for this. I’ll get to them in time, but I’ll start with my biggest issue: the whole assassin aspect. I entered the book hoping for the world’s most deadly assassin. I expected a heartless soul. I expected slaughter. I expected real spunk. What I was given surprised me. What I was given was not what I had expected. What I was given was not what I would call a deadly assassin.

I wish to break slightly here, before the haters come out to get me. I am not saying I dislike our main character. I’m merely saying she was not what I had been made to believe of her. As the book progressed, I came to enjoy her more and more as a main character. To do this, however, I had to forget she was supposed to be a deadly assassin. It was hard to do with the constant references, but I managed to like her in the end. She is a fun main character. There is a decent amount to her. She has layers, making her that onion in Shrek. I enjoyed seeing the different aspects of her, but I just couldn’t bring myself to enjoy the assassin aspect of her story. It felt as though it was thrown in to fit in with the story and not the character. Had she not been an assassin I’m sure I would have loved her even more. Alas, she was not the assassin I had wanted.

Assassins are supposed to be deadly creatures. They’re supposed to have removed all emotional ties from their life. Revenge will often be an aspect of their life, but that is about it when it comes to emotions. When I read Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder, I had a few issues with her assassin. Valek was not the assassin I had envisioned, he seems second rate compared to the image in my mind. He was a fun character, but he would never be the creature I desired. This demonstrates how I have high hopes for assassins. I came to enjoy him as I found out more about him, but he was never the deadly weapon I pray for when I read the word ‘assassin’. Celaena, our Throne of Glass assassin, works to make him look like a true weapon of destruction. Her history suggests countless years of turning her into the perfect weapon, the things people say about her suggest she will do anything, and yet… well, she read like any other girl.

I appreciate how Maas gave her some feminine attributes: she created a main character both dark and light. The dark aspect, however, did not hit the mark for me. It was all buried under flirting, dresses, love, and all the other pixie aspects of femininity. I wanted to read about her breaking bones and torturing children. Okay, maybe not torturing children, but you get what I mean – I wanted to see more of the assassin. Hence why I found her easier to enjoy when I pretended the ‘assassin’ aspect did not exist. As I said, it felt more like a story pointer than a character pointer. It didn’t seem to fit in the way I had hoped for, leaving me wanting so much more.

I’ll stop ranting about my assassin view now, though. I really could rant and rave for a very long time, but I believe I have managed to get my point across by now. Basically, to sum it up in as few words as possible, I hope to see more of this dark and deadly assassin everyone is talking about in the future books.

Now I’ll move on to the other aspects of the story that originally left me fearing a three star rating.

For me, the start of the book felt terribly slow. I wanted a lot of action, I wanted things to occur, yet things seemed to move at a slower speed than I’d anticipated. I feel as though this is just something that happens in Maas books: of the three I have read thus far, all three have felt somewhat slow at the start. Thus, I dealt with it. Nevertheless, I did feel as though some things at the start of the book felt pointless. Things occurred that didn’t really have much of an impact on the overall story, seeming to exist solely so we could be reminded how wonderful our main character is.

Didn’t I mention that? Our main character is wonderful. In every way. We’ll be constantly reminded of it. Males and females alike will remind us of her beauty. People will constantly tell us how great an assassin she is. References will be made to her intellect. She’s an all-round wonderful character, and everyone will say so. Mind you, we’re told this rather than shown this. I would rather be shown. Like with the assassin aspect – don’t tell me she is a great assassin, show me!

Another thing that bugged me was the romance. It all felt far too forced. Because our main character is beautiful, everyone seems to want her. Males become territorial, forgetting the good old saying of ‘bros before hoes’. I can accept romance in such books, but when it is thrown in from the start and feels so forced, I find myself unable to care about it. Whenever there was a romance scene, I just gave up. I didn’t really care. No ships developed within my mind. I have no preference as to how the love triangle plays out, or whether it dies out. For me, the romance took centre stage and buried many other aspects of the story (I promise to hold back on saying that ‘a’ word here).

I know it seems like I really disliked this one, but I clearly came to enjoy it in the end. It managed four stars out of me, pulling away from the dismal three stars I had originally feared. I’ll admit it’s not the strongest four stars I have ever given – it’s a lower four star rating than the four stars I gave to A Court of Thrones and Roses – but it was a much higher four stars than I believed it capable of in the beginning.

What change my mind, then?

Once the story started to move, it became truly gripping. I was super excited to see how it ended, turning page after page. I quickly found myself unable to put it down. As with things seeming a bit slow at the start, this seems to be the norm for any Maas book. Things appear slow at the start and then the story opens up and pulls you in. Many aspects come to light, and you’re reading in search of all the answers you need.

Fear not, there are enough unanswered questions to leave you reading on. With there being multiple layers to this story, we’re given enough answers to appease us whilst also leaving us more than ready to read on so that we can continue our search for the truth.

Honestly, I hadn’t expected so many different aspects to come to light. I’m especially interested to see where certain parts of the story will go. The magic in particular, I wish to see more of in the future books. We’re given enough to know the basics of the magical world, and yet we don’t really know anything at all. I hoping this aspect will come into play a lot more in the future.

One thing I wish we’d been given more answers to, though, was in regards to our main character. Many aspects of her past are still shrouded in shadows. I understand that she is supposed to be a mystery, but I favour it when we know the ins and outs of our main character. I came to enjoy her more and more as the book progressed, yet I cannot help but think my enjoyment of her would have occurred sooner had I been able to find out even more about her. I hope that her past grows less murky as the books progress, as that is one thing I really wish to know more about. I want more than the mere glimpses at information; I want specifics.

Honestly, the way the story grew made it worth reading for me. By the end of the book I was ‘mildly curious’ about the future and ‘slightly addicted’ to the storyline, with those words inside of those apostrophes being played down. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that the story managed to get its claws into me. The start had me expecting so little that when everything was thrown together my mind was blown.

Overall, I understand the hype. I admit that I had expected something more, but I can see why so many people enjoy it. Moreover, I’ve already moved on to the next book. After all, I need some answers and I need to see where things go.

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Monday, 12 September 2016

Review: Nerve

Nerve Nerve by Jeanne Ryan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I feel as though I belong to the majority when I say this: I picked this one up because of the movie.

I’m not big on the whole book to movie shebang, as nine times out of ten the movie leaves me ashamed. Details are always missing. Events are altered. Sometimes it is merely the premise of the book retold with a completely different story. Very rarely, though, the movie manages to do better than the book.

Somehow, I feel as though this will be a situation whereby the movie will be the better option.

I picked this one up because of the movie trailer. I have yet to watch the film, but I probably will. It seems like such fun. It promises action, action, action. The trailer is enough to get your heart pumping. You know something good is coming. Thrills await. Action in abundance. Emotions on high. It seems to offer all you would expect from a high velocity teen movie. Being a firm believer in books before movies, I opted to read the story before watching it. Truthfully, everything offered in the movie trailer seems to be missing in this one. It appears to be the premise and some of the characters are taken, being retold in a more interesting way.

Instead of action and thrills, I was given a mediocre read for the majority of the book. Rather than being a young adult thriller, it seemed to read like most of the other young adult books on the market.

First off, we have the teenage drama. There is the usual angst, failed romance, tension between friends, and everything else that is thrown together to show how teenage life is oh-so-very hard. I grew bored of reading through all of this. I wanted the thrills, not the teenage drama. I admit that it was interesting when the teenage drama was pulled into the game… but mostly I really didn’t care for it. I also couldn’t comprehend how such a thing would make good viewing. We spent far too much time listening to the main character being overly whiny. I just wanted to shake her and tell her to be done with all the teen drama.

Second, following on from the first, is the romance. It was expected in such a novel. You know, the whole teen drama story doesn’t work unless you add in the romantic aspect. For me, however, I found it to be even more annoying than usual. The aspect playing in with the teen drama I could have dealt with, what I found hard to deal with was the progression of romance between the two main characters. I understand that emotions are high in situations that leave the heart palpitating. Most of the scenes may have read as rather drab but for the characters they were intended to be blood-pounding moments. Thus, I can understand there being something between them. We see it in crime novels all the time – the thrill of the chase leaves people misattributing their aroused state. They mistake excitement and fear for attraction and love. In fact, there is a lot of evidence for this. It’s really useful if you want a sure fire way to confuse someone on a date. Get them excited and they’ll believe they’re in love with you. I once attended a lecture where the lecturer informed us she confused her aroused state whilst on a rollercoaster for attraction to the male she was with. It’s great dating advice. There is really something to it. Yet with the duo in this story, I felt there was a lack of chemistry. There was a lack of anything between them, and the notion of them getting so deep so quickly seem ridiculous to me. I understand heightened emotions, but the way things progressed between the two was too much for me.

Third, taking something I mentioned in the above paragraph, is the supposed action. The trailer for the movie suggests we’re in for a really wild ride. Oddly enough, there isn’t anywhere near the action shown in the trailer. There is very little happen in terms of dares. There are a handful, but none of them are really as heart stopping as they could have been. One I could mention had the potential to be a real heart stopper… and yet the way the story was told prevented it from having any real effect on the reader. The story telling, therefore, nullified any potential thrills. Honestly, I could rant on and on about the lack of real action, yet I fear I will bore you. The book touched the tip of the iceberg when it came to showing just how dangerous the game could be, and it all felt rather lacking because nothing much seemed to happen. Except, you know, increasing the teen drama and forcing out some apparently necessary romance that I couldn’t care less about.

Those are my three main issues, but there are also some other things that bugged me. Such as stereotypical characters, apparent messages being lost in the storytelling, the book being unsure of where on the young adult spectrum it fell, and the fact it was labelled for fans of The Hunger Games when such a thing makes very little sense.

Despite all of this, I was interested to see where things would go. It was a short easy read, and I was more than happy to work my way to the end to see how things played out. There was a constant promise of more, and whilst the more was never delivered, the expectation of it left me pulled into the story.

All in all, I had expected something more. Something much more, in fact. It leaves me both worried and hopeful for the movie. I fear the trailer showed all the good bits, yet I’m hopeful it has fixed all the issues with the book. Considering all I’d been hoping for, this one was rather lacking. Nevertheless, it could have been much worse…

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Sunday, 11 September 2016

Review: End of Days

End of Days End of Days by Susan Ee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I went from Angelfall straight into World After. I went from World After straight into End of Days. I went from End of Days into the abyss.

The Angelfall trilogy turned out to be one of my most addictive reads of the year. Truthfully, I really shouldn’t have waited so long to pick them up. Alas, I was a fool. There was the tentatively. There was the wanting to have all three at my bedside before reading. There were many excuses, and all of them were foolish. This series was exactly what I needed in my life. It was more than worth the hype and I’m happy to jump on the bandwagon of recommending this series to every possible person.

For me, World After is my favourite book in the trilogy. All three books are beautiful in their own way, yet the second book is my favourite. What surprises me, however, is the number of people who seem to dislike this final book. After coming from the high of book two, the conclusion to the series would need to be out of the world to please everyone, and yet some of the words I have read have been overly harsh. Personally, I think it’s a great end to the series.

Endings are always hard. Everything needs to be brought together. People and events need conclusions, and yet everyone is left wanting more. When endings are done correctly, the author will leave the readers in a post-read slump. End of Days managed such a thing. It wasn’t my biggest post-read slump, but it was still a pretty hefty size. I was left wanting more of the world; I was left feeling as though the next book I picked up would be second rate (in fact, this might explain why it took me longer than usual to finish the next book I read).

Truthfully, I can understand why some people were disappointed by this one. Understanding and agreeing, however, are two very different things. I agree that there could have been more from this one, but what we were given did bring things around nicely.

I feel as though the biggest issue was the change from five books to three. I feel as though I can see books three, four and five within this one. I’m not sure why Susan Ee went from five books to three, but I’m sure she had her reasons. Nevertheless, I feel as though I can see where the plots of each of the three books were compressed together into this one book. It means a lot is happening in this book, at the same time it means some events felt as though they were not given all the attention they could have been given. Whatever the reason for three books instead of five, I cannot help but feel as though I would have been happier with the five. Each of the aspects of this story were thoroughly enjoyable, and I cannot help but wish we had been given even more.

Despite things feeling somewhat compressed, I had a lot of fun. There was non-stop action in this book. Everything came together, all aspects of the story reaching the single resolution point. Putting the book down was an impossibility: you were either being given action or answers, with something always happening to keep your attention. All our questions are answers. All the events move on. All the characters reach new points (the way characters were dealt with, especially certain characters I will not name, made this book wonderful for me). Honestly, it was magnificent. I feel as though I read a different book to those who did not enjoy it.

A beautiful end to a beautiful trilogy: I cannot wait to see what else Susan Ee has to offer.

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Review: World After

World After World After by Susan Ee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed Angelfall more than I had anticipated, due to this I started book two instantly.

I’ll admit, at first, I was somewhat worried. I feared this book would be a repeat of the first thanks to the ‘missing sister’ aspect of the story. I feared we would rehash the entire first book, hunting down Paige in the same way we did in book one.

Whilst there were a few repetitive moments, mostly this one was something else entirely. In fact, by the end of the book, I came to enjoy this one more than the first book.

World After picks up where Angelfall left off. If you’re questioning whether it is possible to read the books out of order, know it is not possible. Each story picks up where the last left off, and to understand what is going on you need to have read the prior book. With this one, we work to get some answers for those questions brought about in the first book.

As with the first book, things are a bit slow at the start. There is a lot going on, yet I felt as though there wasn’t much by way of action. It was great fun to see how people were reacting to things, fun to see what characters were up to, yet I wanted some more by way of action. I’d been expecting things to pick up where the first book had left off not only in terms of storyline but also in terms of level of action.

Not that the slower pace lasts for long.

Once the action begins, so much comes about. Many new things are brought to our attention, leaving us with more questions about the world and the creatures inhabiting it. Both the angels and the humans continue to grow, with both sides having good and bad aspects to bring to our attention. You’re left questioning people and events; you grow attached to both good and bad characters. All in all, there is a lot of development happening in this one. By the end of it, I decided I was foolish for even considering the notion of a repeat storyline. This book is very much its own, and it is wonderful in so many ways.

I really could say so much about this one, but I won’t. All you need to know is that it has all the beauty of the first book and then some more thrown in on top. This is a book of development, of working towards answering our questions whilst also leaving us with enough to pick up the next book as soon as possible.

A wonderful second book, more than capable of leaving you on the edge of your seat regarding how the trilogy will end.

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Review: Angelfall

Angelfall Angelfall by Susan Ee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, I understand the hype.

The Angelfall trilogy sat on my to-read list for a very long time. Everyone seemed to adore it, and the story was right up my street, yet I feared I would be disappointed. I’m always worried when books have a lot of hype. Hype leaves me fearful of disappointment. Fortunately, such was not the case with these books. As soon as I finished one book, I was picking up the next. I needed to know more, I wanted to see how things ended. All in all, it was very much worth it.

To be completely honest, at the start of the book I was unsure as to whether or not I would enjoy the book as much as the rest of the population seemed to be enjoying it. I was enjoy the story but there was more that I wanted. I wanted a bit more in terms of speed. I wanted some more when it came to the understanding of the world. I felt as though the storytelling was more on the younger end of the young adult spectrum than I’d been made to believe.

These things changed the more I worked through it.

The speed does pick up after a while, and there is a lot of action to be seen. I admit that there are a few slow points, but for the most part the story is non-stop. Events continue to move forward, one thing leads to another, and we’re never lacking for events. Everything that happens has a purpose.

When it comes to the lack of knowledge about the world, that doesn’t change as much as I had hoped for. We’re given more and more information the more we read, yet I still felt as though some specifics were lacking. There was more than enough to bring the world to life, yet I’m the kind of person who adores excess world building. The more world building the better. Thus, I felt a little bit let down by this aspect.

As for the writing issue, I came to deal with that. Such thing is an issue I need to deal with more often than you’d think. I’m a lover of extravagant prose. I love beautiful writing. Truthfully, this story is so addictive that I soon found myself pulled in and capable of overlooking the somewhat basic writing style.

Honestly, it didn’t take long before I reached the point where I was unable to put the book down.

It is a brilliant young adult tale, offering everything you would expect from such a read. Strong characters (although I was unsure about the portrayal of the mother, as that left me feeling a bit iffy because the psychologist in me came out). Gripping storyline. Romantic undertones. On that note, can we get a ‘hell yeah’ for the romance not being in your face. It is clearly there, but we’re lacking in the annoying endless romantic angst that you see in so many other young adult novels.

It really was a great read. It wasn’t quite what I had expected, yet I came to have so much fun with it. A very strong four stars which leaves you ready and waiting for what comes next.

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Friday, 9 September 2016

Review: The Mime Order

The Mime Order The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Prior to entering this series, I was tentative. I love a good young adult dystopian fantasy, yet I fear there is a lot of repetition out there. Unless a book really grabs me, I’m not overly eager to work my way through the series.

Fortunately, The Bone Season series is proving to be worth the read.

Upon finishing the first book, I knew I would need to carry on with the series. I needed answers. I needed to see where things would go. All in all, I was ready for the series.

Unfortunately, it took me a while to get my hands on the second one. I knew it ended on a cliff-hanged, thus I was holding out until book three was on the market. This changed when I found a hardback copy going cheap in the university’s second-hand bookstore. I couldn’t say no and the book ended up coming home with me. I then told myself not to read it straight away, to hold off for a while, but that didn’t work. I was too curious to see what happened next, which left me picking up the book and reading it.

Now I’m desperately awaiting the third book.

Honestly, the ending. It leaves you more than ready for what comes next. I have no idea where the series will go, yet the ending has left me more than eager to find out. I’ll admit that some of the details relating to the ending were obvious. Characters and actions pointed towards certain things playing out, yet this did nothing to remove the emotions it brings about. Such excitement. It really was a great way to end the book, even if it does leave fans ripping their hair out as they await answers.

I’ll admit when I started reading this one, I wasn’t pulled in instantly. The book got better as it progressed. It carried on where the last one left off, and I feel as though I should have reminded myself of specific details. I could remember the main things, yet there were little bit and pieces I had to remind myself of. The way the world worked, for example, only came back to me slowly. I feel as though this played a part in why it took me so long to get into the book, yet at the same time I do feel as though it was rather slow.

Despite carrying on where the last book left off, the pacing at the start of this book is much slower than I had anticipated. A lot is happening, yet there wasn’t much by way of action. I feel as though a lot of information was being thrown at us again. It was great to watch the world come to life, to find out more specific details about the world, but it left the book lagging at certain points. I was left wanting more, waiting for the book to speed up.

As with the first book, though, once the action starts it is a lot of fun. A lot is going on in this one, leaving you unsure as to where everything is going to lead. You cross your fingers for certain things to play out, only to groan when things do not go your way. Throughout the book, your emotions are constantly played with as new notions arise.

Overall, it was slower than I had anticipated but it was a lot of fun. I’m more than ready for the third book in the series.

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Thursday, 8 September 2016

Review: A Song for the Dying

A Song for the Dying A Song for the Dying by Stuart MacBride
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stuart MacBride has been a favourite author since I picked up Cold Granite, the first of his Logan McRae books. At present, I’m still playing catch up. Despite not being up to date, I adore the series. It has earned a place in my favourite police procedural series. Due to this, I was eager to see what else MacBride has to offer. Thus, I picked up the two Ash Henderson books that are currently on the market. I enjoyed the first one, but it was no Logan McRae novel. Nevertheless, I was excited to see where things would go. After all, that ending left me curious as to what would come next.

Personally, I enjoyed this book more than I enjoyed the first. Both books were a lot of fun, yet I was pulled into this one much quicker. I think a part of it was because I’d already come to love the characters. As fun as they are, they take a bit of getting used to. The characters in the Logan McRae series pull you in from the first moment, yet the characters in the Ash Henderson novels are not so easy to love. You come to enjoy them the more you read of them, and having already finished the first book I knew what to expect with this one.

Plus, as I said, that ending.

The first book left you with a big question of what would come next. Considering all that had happened, I wasn’t sure where things would be going in this book. As always, though, MacBride delivers. He gives us a story that ticks all the boxes: wonderful criminal aspect, fun characters, and a story that moves everything forward in a great way. I promise not to say too much about how the story moves forward, just know it was great progress for all the characters.

As always, the criminal aspect was a lot of fun. It has everything you need in a gritty crime novel. There are multiple layers to the story, with everything being interconnected in a great way. Every piece of information that is given to you plays an important part. You’re constantly left with questions, curious about motives and alibis. You think you know what is happening, who is to blame, yet something new will be thrown your way to leave you unsure as to whether or not you have worked everything out. Whilst the first Ash Henderson book wasn’t as pulled together as it could have been, this second book is back to what MacBride usually delivers. It gives us all we can ask for.

I still missed the dark humour, though.

As I said with the first book, that’s just me. I enjoy the laughter of the Logan McRae books a lot more than is probably expected of people. As the Ash Henderson books merely offer up occasional smiles, I feel as though we’re missing the usual MacBride trademark. Admittedly, there were more smiles in this book than the first, but it still missed out on all the laughter of the Logan McRae books. I said it when reviewing the first book, though: this isn’t a bad thing. It’s just different, and you grow to accept it. I know that for the real laughter I go for his Logan McRae books, whereas for the questionable main character I go for his Ash Henderson books.

As a whole, I enjoyed this one more than the first. The Logan McRae books still hold the favourite MacBride series spot, but this series is more than worth a read if you love the darker main characters.

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Review: Birthdays for the Dead

Birthdays for the Dead Birthdays for the Dead by Stuart MacBride
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I adore Stuart MacBride’s Logan McRae series, so it should come as no surprise to know I jumped at his Ash Henderson series with a lot of expectations. Fortunately, the male did not disappoint. Whilst I favour his Aberdonian detective, I certainly had fun with this new character.

In his Logan McRae books, Stuart MacBride demonstrates how he was more than capable of throwing in all the things you would expect to find in a gritty crime novel. Suspense. Intrigue. Mystery. Wonderful characters. Questionable motives. The darkness of humanity. For me, however, this introduction to the world of Ash Henderson was missing one vital aspect: the dark humour. The Logan McRae series have me laughing endlessly, earning me many questionable looks, whereas I merely smirked a couple of times with this one. Truthfully, I missed the humour. Of course, this is not a bad thing. The book was still a lot of fun. But I really did miss his brilliant humour, I missed the characters that left me chuckling at the book in public.

The lack of dark humour, though, is replaced by a different kind of darkness. Ash Henderson is far from the detective McRae is. I’d love to see how the two of them would interact, would love to see what would happen if they crossed paths, as they’re two very different people. McRae is the good cop to Henderson’s bad cop. Ash Henderson is a much darker person, we really get to see the extremes people will go to when their world is spinning out of control. I adored this. Honestly, it was great. There was such inner turmoil with our main character meaning he was a much darker read than McRae. McRae is a brilliant character for so many reasons, and none of these reasons apply as to why Henderson is a brilliant character. There are so many different reasons for why Henderson is a great character, mostly watching him toe the line between good and bad makes the book worth it. He really is a great character to read.

That aside, it did take much longer to get into this story than usual. The Logan McRae books pull you in from the get-go, whereas this book seemed to drag a bit at first. I wasn’t as pulled in. The criminal storyline was a lot of fun, but I felt as though there was far too much going on at once. Usually, MacBride is brilliant at having multiple aspects of a story occurring at once, but with this one it felt a little bit clumsy. It felt as though he was trying to do too many things at once, and didn’t refine it as much as he usually does.

Overall, it was a great read. It was more than enough to ensure I will be continuing on with his Ash Henderson series. That being said, as enjoyable as it was, it was not quite the mind-blowing read you are usually given in the Logan McRae series. More than worth it, without a doubt, but not his best.

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Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Review: The Art of Persuasion

The Art of Persuasion The Art of Persuasion by Heather C. Myers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Art of Persuasion is the fourth book in the Swashbuckling Romance series, although you should know that you can read each book as a standalone. None of the books are linked. Each book tells an individual story. The only thing connecting the books is the theme: they are all pirate themed stories.

Heather C. Myers loves her pirate stories. If you’re a fan of pirate romances, then you should certainly pick one up. Mostly I have read her paranormal stories, enjoying the spin she usually puts on the paranormal world. Thus, it’s nice to read something different. It is nice to take a slight break from the paranormal work I usually read by her and pick up something else.

Not that this book is completely free of the paranormal. There is a slight aspect, as you can probably guess from the whole going back in time detail. Mostly, though, it’s free of the paranormal. This is just another one of her thrilling pirate stories.

For me, this book had a brilliant main character. I love it when characters in romance books are against love, when persuasion is necessary for them to accept their feelings. Whilst things moved a little bit too quickly for my liking, with the main character changing their view easier than I would have expected of someone with her viewpoints, it was a refreshing read when she was initially stating her views on the matter of love. In fact, there were quite moments in the story where I found myself enjoying her viewpoints.

The story, however, felt as though it was a bit lacking. I feel as though events were glossed over, to some degree. In the author’s other books the action aspect of the story has been played out, we got to experience the fun of the chase and the mission impossible aspects. With this one, the events are skipped over. We’re told events are to happen, or they have happened, but we are not given the details. This disappointed me, if I’m honest. I feel as though there was a lot of fun to be had if we watched the action play out, rather than simply being told such has happened.

Overall, though, it was a fun read. Personally, I believe this to be one of her best-written pieces of work. Whilst not my favourite of her books when it comes to the story, the voice of the main character really brought things to life.

As a final note, I would like to thank Heather C. Myers for allowing me to advance read this.

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Review: The Shadow Queen

The Shadow Queen The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is another of those books that pulled me in through the whole ‘fairy-tale retelling’ aspect.

I love retellings, have done for some time. Originally the prospect of such stories terrified me, mainly because I knew how they would end, yet I have read so many with wonderful twists that the fear no longer grasps me. Thus, I was excited to read this one. It sounded a lot like some other books in the genre, yet there seemed to be some originality in place.

Plus, dragons. I cannot say no to dragons.

Truthfully, the dragons were my favourite thing about the book.

The story was a decent enough read, yet for some reason I could never really get into it. Things felt too slow, things seemed too forced. Mainly, I failed to grow attached to any of the characters. They existed, yet I did not feel anything for them. I was watching their world play out but I didn’t care what happened to people. If I’m to enjoy a book, I need to feel some kind of connection to the characters. It didn’t help that the author seemed to be trying too hard when it came to making us feel things towards characters. Following multiple characters can be fun, yet the way it would flicker between them meant I never really understood them as well as I could have. At least with some of the characters, due to some being more fleshed out than others.

It wasn’t all bad, though. There were some moments where I considered giving four stars. This was mainly when the action was happening. At these points I was interested enough to find myself completely submerged in the story. I wanted to continue, I had no wish to be distracted by the world around me. However, these moments were few and far between. Hence the three star rating. There really wasn’t enough for me to give a full four stars. There wasn’t quite enough for me to round up to the four stars, either. To counteract how I spent a lot of my time disinterested, there needed to be a lot more action.

Overall, it was an okay read. However, it is far from being my favourite fairy-tale retelling. Part of me wishes to read the next one, if only because of whose tale is being retold, but after reading this one I won’t be going out of my way to do so.

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Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Review: The Witch's Kiss

The Witch's Kiss The Witch's Kiss by Katharine Corr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m a big fan of fairy-tale retellings. I was tentative about the notion to begin with, unsure whether I would be able to get into such things considering how I would know the endings beforehand, yet I have quickly found myself addicted to such books. Whenever I find out something is a fairy-tale retelling, I find myself a little bit more eager to read the story. Thus, when I found out The Witch’s Kiss was a Sleeping Beauty retelling with a twist I knew I needed to get in there.

I would have been reading the book anyway, as my sister brought it. I always take her views of books with a pinch of salt, but she said this was a good one. It wasn’t her favourite book, but she came to really enjoy it. In fact, I ended up listening to far too many exclamations of enjoyment as she worked her way through the book. I was told to read it as soon as she was done. I considered leaving it for a while, yet the whole fairy-tale thing convinced me to do as my sister asked.

It wasn’t all bad – it was an interesting story – and yet it wasn’t what I had hoped it would be.

There are a lot of the usual clichés to be seen in this story, but there is just enough variety to prevent it from being an exact replica of other young adult books in the genre. We have the usual special snowflake, we have a far from perfect family dynamic, we have the romance set out to fail, we have the historical aspect going way back when, and we have a couple of the other usual young adult checkbox necessities. Despite all of this, it did have some unique spins on these things.

The special snowflake knew about their magic, preventing the drama of ‘oh no, I’m a witch’. This time the character knows in advance and it is very refreshing. In all honesty, I don’t think I could deal with another situation where we have to deal with the shock of finding out they’re the one to save the world when they don’t even know about their powers. Yes, there was some aspects of the cliché, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been through the main character having prior knowledge.

The family dynamic had a massive saving grace: Leo. I would gladly read a book based entirely upon his character. Truthfully, he was my favourite character of the entire book. We all want a big brother just like him. He can be annoying, but he is always there for his sister. If I’m being honest, I feel as though he was the most fleshed out character in the book. There was more depth to him than any of the other characters. My only complaint is that he wasn’t in the book enough. He was deserving of so many more scenes. Honestly, he made the book more than worth it.

The romance set out to fail wasn’t forced on us as much as it could have been. I really appreciate it. I hate it when every other line is sickeningly sweet. The romance did exist in this one, but it wasn’t blinding. I’m really grateful for this. I never came to enjoy it, and there were the usual problems to be found in these kinds of books, yet the fact it was never made the centre point of the story saved it from being really annoying.

The historical aspect going way back when was really interesting, given more time than I expected it to. The characters in the past were given almost as much attention as those in the modern world. This allowed the two time frames to weave together wonderfully. I had expected there to be the odd reference to the past here and there, whereas we were given entire chapters where things played out. It made everything much easier to understand, creating a more fleshed out story.

As I said, despite the clichés there were many decent aspects of the story. Nevertheless, I couldn’t quite bring myself to give the story four stars. I felt as though the action was rather lacking, the story was too slow at times, characters weren’t as fleshed out as they could have been, and I was left wanting more than I was given. Plus, it didn’t really feel like much of a Sleeping Beauty retelling. Not in the way I had expected, anyway.

It was an interesting tale, yet I wanted just a little bit more.

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Review: Every Dead Thing

Every Dead Thing Every Dead Thing by John Connolly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’d been looking forward to this one for the longest of times. John Connolly is one of those authors I’ve always been telling myself to pick up. His Charlie Parker series, in particular, screamed out to me. It seemed right up my street: mystery and a supernatural element. It had ‘you will love this’ written all over it. I was expecting a series I would be addicted to, one I would find impossible to put down.

Unfortunately, I had a lot of difficulty reading Every Dead Thing.

It started off with promise. We’re introduced to our main character through a pivotal point in their life, the moment where everything falls apart. It goes without saying that I loved such a thing. I adore seeing characters at their darkness moments, watching as they’re put in situations that will make or break them. Thus, starting in darkness was a lot of fun.

After that, though, things quickly went downhill. It seemed to take forever before the story built up any real speed, before there was any real action. There was a lot going on, with there being stories within the story, yet I felt as though nothing much actually happened. Things moved forward but I never felt like anything was happening. In fact, for a lot of the book, I simply felt as though information was being thrown at me rather than the characters doing anything.

I think the biggest example of this is the way every character introduced seemed to have countless pages of biography. I understand finding out about characters, I adore it when characters have depth, but I dislike it when we’re given countless pages of information. It brings the main story to a halt and it makes things feel far too chunky. I prefer to be given the information over time, rather than a big history in the middle of events. Due to this, I feel as though any emotions that could have been brought to the forefront were put on hold as I came to understand who the character was.

This, however, was just a personal thing. I believe it could have been done so much better, and the way it happen merely made it difficult for me to get into the story. That isn’t to say it was a badly written piece of work – the writing was fine, I had no flaws with the writing itself – it was merely the way the story was told.

Moreover, I was somewhat disappointed by the supernatural element of the story. I had convinced myself that there was going to be a lot of supernatural elements to the story, with the crime and paranormal aspects working together. Since reading this one, I have found out that the paranormal elements slowly build throughout the books. Nevertheless, I had been expecting something more from this one. I’d been ready for spooks and bumps in the night. Instead, there was a tiny paranormal element. In fact, this paranormal element reminded me a lot of Stephen King’s The Stand, minus the end of the world aspect. Due to this, I found myself drifting more than I should have been.

Overall, this one was not what I had been hoping for. I went in ready for something mind blowing, a series I would bulk read. What I found, however, is a series I’m unlikely to continue. Sometimes I give three star books another try, willing to continue on with the series, but when it comes to this one I’m really not that eager to see what comes next. I truly am disappointed by what I was given.

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Review: Joyland

Joyland Joyland by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have the most complicated relationship with Stephen King books. There is this weird love hate thing going on, something more intense than what I share with any other author. Some authors I will pick up all of their books because I adore their work. Some authors I will avoid like the plague because I cannot bring myself to enjoy their work no matter how hard I try. Stephen King, however, is different. King’s books fall upon a spectrum. It’s a rather complicated spectrum, whereby he has earned every possible rating for a book, and yet I continue to pick up his stories. I never know whether I’m going to get something wonderful or whether I’m going to get something that will leave me wanting to ignore his books for the rest of my life. As I’ve had both, I’m always tentative when I enter his books.

Thus, when I entered Joyland, I was unsure was to what I was going to get.

Would I be receiving a Misery, one of my five star King reads? In these five star reads Stephen Kings creates something wonderful, showing us why pretty much every person has a King novel on their bookshelf. These are the books that let you know why he is such a big name.

Would I be getting a four star read, where things get more complicated? Complicated as there are high and low four star ratings. The high ratings go to the likes of Pet Semetary and Under the Dome. High four star books really grip you but they’re lacking in some of the things which made the five star books. The low four star books belong to the likes of The Shining and Doctor Sleep. I’ve found in such cases it is the writing that lets them down. Stephen King can create a truly wonderful story (in most cases) but his writing style is very far from being my favourite. What often leaves me giving low four star ratings is when the story blows my mind but the writing style isn’t quite up to his better standards. For example, The Shining would have been a five star book for me had it not been one of my earlier King books when I was in the stage of comparing his writing to better authors.

Would I get a three star read? The three star books generally sit in the middle. Either they’re great ideas with the poorer writing or they’re his better writing with poorer ideas. So we’re split down the middle with the three star books – hence why his short story collections are so often three star books as in these we’re given the mixed bag of goodies.

Would it be a two star read? The two star books are the ones where the story leaves me wanting so much more. Take Gerald’s Game and Dolores Claiborne. I kept waiting for something to happen and it never really did. There was the odd thing here or there to remind us that it was a King book yet for the most part time is wasted by reading theses.

Would I get a one star read? Sadly, there are the single star books. I should point out that I hate giving single stars to books. Authors have taken the time to create something and whilst it may not be my cup of tea a book is something to be proud of. Alas, sometimes I dislike books so much that I have to hand off just a single star. For King, Dreamcatcher falls into this category. The single star goes to those where I want nothing more for the story to end, where I’m unsure why I tormented myself by finishing the book. It’s repetitive stuff. It’s ‘so boring it took me days to read’ stuff.

I know these ratings will be argued by some people, but for me that is how King works: you either receive something mind blowing or you are left feeling as though you want to blow your brains out. Thus, I was on edge as to what Joyland would give me.

Surprisingly, I was given a four star read. A high four star read. Truthfully, I had not expected as much. The synopsis left me fearful that the book would be somewhat drab. It had potential, yet I was unsure how a book so short could fulfil as much as was being promised. Boy oh boy, was I wrong. This book was great. It wasn’t what I was expecting, not at all, and yet it gave me so much more than I had ever imagined it could.

I’m sure you recall that scene from Shrek where they talk about onions and all the layers – well, that’s what this story is. It’s an onion. There is so much more to it than you would initially believe. It’s a coming of age story. It’s a mystery. It’s a horror story. These things are all brought together to create a story that flows beautifully, creating a tale with much more depth than the synopsis would ever have you believing.

I really could say so much about this one, but I’ll cover those three main themes quickly and then leave you to read it yourself. After all, if I’m being honest, half of what I want to say will ruin the story for you. It’s a short read, a gripping read, and you’ll be done with it before you realise.

First up, then, is the coming of age aspect of the story. Personally, I would not go as far as to label this a young adult book. It’s an adult book with coming of age aspects. It’s a retrospect, looking back at youth. You’re not getting The Perks of Being A Wallflower, not here. Yet, you do watch as the main character goes from being a boy to a man. We have the heartbreak of youth, the decisions that will impact life, the naivety of having your entire life ahead of you. It has all the aspects of a coming of age story whilst being aimed at those who have already been there and done that, those who can look back at the folly of youth and realise how silly things seem with the eye of experience. At the same time, however, it is possible for the younger readers to enjoy this one. I would say it is more for the older end of the young adult fan base, but it is possible for those readers to enjoy it as well.

Second, we have the mystery aspect of the story. It isn’t your typical detective novel. In fact, this aspect of the story is nowhere near as prevalent as giving it a ‘mystery’ label would have you believing. Crimes have been committed, there is a murder leaving a dark cloud over things, and yet solving the mystery is more of a side hobby than the real focus of the story. That is not to say it is unimportant… merely there is no running off to play private investigator in a ten-on-one gang shoot out. It is a simple mystery, one that can be worked out with ease, but there is enough information thrown around to leave you questioning things.

Finally, we have the horror aspect of the story. This is not your super fearful King read. This is a simple paranormal encounter. A lowly haunting. We’re lacking in the freights offered up in his classical horrors, but such is fine. This book does not need the fear of other books, it just need the supernatural elements to add something more to the story. It wasn’t a necessary aspect to add, yet it was nice to see it. It was almost as though it was an ode to King’s usual work, a small way of saying he is still capable of adding in the spooks people want even if he doesn’t leave your heart palpitating.

Honestly, I had so much fun with this one. I really was surprised, and I would certainly recommend it to both new and old King fans. It’s not his usual, yet it is certainly one of his better works.

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