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E. S. Jackson (Sussex, UK)
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The Trouble with Mojitos: HarperImpulse Contemporary Romance
The Trouble with Mojitos: HarperImpulse Contemporary Romance
Price: £1.40

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fairytale for grown ups, 24 Oct. 2013
This novella is listed as contemporary romance but I think it could just as easily be called an adult fairytale. It has princes and pirate curses and abandoned tropical islands and, of course, a happily ever after.

I really enjoyed the premise and the way that it gradually became clear to Kenzie that Rik was no bad boy, just a bit lost like she was. Yes, it did feel a little instalove-ish at times but this is a novella so it would be unfair to expect a slow burning relationship development - plus in the heady heat of a tropical island, I think most of us would fall head of heels for a prince!

The Caribbean setting could not have come at a better time for me as autumn has well and truly arrived in rainy old England. I could practically taste the mint leaves in all those mojitos and feel the sand between my toes. This is a great slice of fantasy, ideal for anyone who wants to indulge in a little escapism.


What Kills Me
What Kills Me
Price: £0.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing vampire tale, 10 Aug. 2012
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This review is from: What Kills Me (Kindle Edition)
Axelia is just a normal student, studying in Rome when she falls into a sacred well and emerges a vampire. If that weren't bad enough, her unique method of reincarnation as a preternatural creature was foretold in ancient vampire folklore and she is forced to go on the run, with only a grumpy vampire sword-smith for company, in order to avoid losing her life.

The folklore reminded me a little of Queen of the Damned but it's such a different style and focus that it's not really that big a deal. I haven't read a vampire book in ages and I found this one a refreshing return to the genre. Although there is a romantic element, it's not particularly strong and the story focuses more on the action, which is constant and vividly described. The pace of the novel is non-stop and I found the first half a real page-turner. I felt the second half became a little repetitive but there was development and it was still entertaining.

I thought the characters were well-drawn, even the incidental characters were fully imagined, although I would have liked to understand more about what was going on with Lucas - he was quite an enigma really and I think the relationship development between him and Zee suffered because of it. In some ways I think the story could have been slowed ever so slightly to allow for us to get to know them better. As Lucas himself mentions at one point: "You're going to live forever. Pace yourself." but I guess that would have spoilt the sense of urgency. Overall, an enjoyable light read.


Children of the Gods (A Chosen Novel Book 1)
Children of the Gods (A Chosen Novel Book 1)
Price: £2.30

3.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas but a bit confusing, 16 May 2012
Years ago, a generation of people from Reka's home agreed to offer up their adolescent children as hosts for the `Gods' in return for saving them from famine and starvation. When Reka is picked to be the host for Anaya, the Queen of the Gods, she believes her life is over, her body to be hijacked and her spirit crushed - but from the moment she steps on the ship, nothing turns out quite as she expected.

The story is told from Reka's first person perspective and I have to say I found it slightly confusing, as a lot of the world building elements were either referred to but not thoroughly explained, or things happened but were given no further context. I'm not someone that is a big fan of `telling' in comparison to `showing' but I needed more clarity about what was going on and why. Some of the time I wondered if I was just being a bit dense and not picking up on the subtleties, whereas at other times it just didn't make sense to me as to why nothing more had been said.

The opening chapter of `Children of the Gods' did fall prey to this issue but I have to say that the actual events that were unfolding hooked me in and kept me reading. I thought the whole plot was very interesting and there were lots of ideas that were really imaginative. The budding romance between Reka and Jaxson was sweet and I liked how they gradually grew closer and more trusting of each other but I would have liked to see this play out in different settings to keep it interesting. There was a point where each day felt quite repetitive. Overall, I would give this a 2.5 star rating as there was heaps of potential in this story but the execution needed some tightening up.


Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, Book 1)
Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, Book 1)

4.0 out of 5 stars Can't wait for the second in the series, 1 Feb. 2012
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4.5 stars

Angelfall plunges you straight into Susan Ee's angel-ravaged dystopian world, immediately placing her main character, Pennryn, in a situation which shows you just how dangerous and surreal life has become. That is part of main success of this book in my opinion, it pretty much shows you everything rather than wasting time telling you. There are bits of explanation about what happened, how things unravelled and ended up the way they are, but they are peppered through the prose and never bog the impressive pace down.

As Angelfall is both a YA dystopian novel and features an angel as the heroine's love interest there are obvious comparisons to be drawn with The Hunger Games and books like Fallen or Hush, Hush.

Raffe - the angel in question - does appear on an initial assessment much like any other preternatural hunk in YA PNR at the moment; he's beyond gorgeous, a complete smart alec, arrogant, amazingly strong etc and 'troubled'. However, for all this, he's not invincible and Pennryn spends an awful lot of her time looking after him rather than the other way around. They partner up in the first place because each has something the other can offer to help them out. They are wary of each other, downright hostile in the outset since they are on opposite sides of the war that is raging around them, and it is only as the story progresses that they slowly come to look out for each other in a way that is separate from their own personal interests. All of this is a big plus in my eyes.

So, the second comparison is with The Hunger Games. Again there are immediate parallels between Pennryn and Katniss. Both have mothers whose mental health has meant that they have had to take on the 'parent' role in the family; both have little sister's they are desperate to protect and both know how to look after themselves in a brawl.

As a big fan of The Hunger Games it would have been easy to be frustrated with Angelfall for the similarities but, personally, I am infinitely more in favour of a heroine that has a credible reason behind why she knows how to defend herself and handle a knife etc, than one who unrealistically becomes a superwoman just because she has been placed in danger. The reason Pennryn can defend herself is both plausible and also linked integrally to her own and her mother's character. I think her mother's illness is dealt with extremely well and though Pennryn is matter-of-fact about it and doesn't feel sorry for herself, it doesn't stop moments slipping through when you can pick up that she really would love to be able to rely on her mother and the tragedy of her childhood.

The ending was fantastic with a few twists that blew my mind and a tone that was pitched perfectly between making the first book feel like a complete story and making me feel desperate to read the second in the series and see where some of those twists end up going.

The only things stopping this book from being a full five star rating from me is that I would have liked a little more time with Pennryn and Raffe together at the end (though I understand why the author may have avoided that) and that for a dystopia I would like a deeper social commentary. The premise of angels invading earth seems to somewhat rob the series of that since there is no current technological or idealogical system that appears to have spiralled out of control and led to the predicament. However, this is one series where I truly feel that the author could have anything happen and make it plausible.

Oh and one word of warning to potential readers: this book doesn't pull it's punches when it comes to disturbing imagery or gore.


On Dark Shores: The Lady
On Dark Shores: The Lady
Price: £0.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Whetting your appetite..., 28 Sept. 2011
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3.5 stars

Scarlock has been under the brutal oppression of the moneylender Copeland for as long as anyone can remember. Nereia the thief is one of the only people living there with the courage not to cow-tow to him. However she has an achilles heel: her sister Mary and when Copeland threatens the young girl's safety in order to blackmail Nereia, he unwittingly sets off a chain of events that may change everything.

The author's use of descriptive and evocative language builds an extremely well realised setting, infused with atmosphere. On Dark Shores is a very apt title for a story about a place as down-trodden and corrupt as Scarlock.

There are a lot of characters and strands of plot being woven in this, the first novel of an intended series, and I am not usually a fan of continually shifting third person perspectives. However, when it is handed well it can be a huge bonus and I think that it really works for On Dark Shores, drawing out tension and suspense and keeping the pace swift.

I also particularly liked how the author handled violence; make no mistake there is ample but it is very cleverly kept 'off-camera' so that as a reader you are left to fill in the brutality for yourself.

There are two reasons that I had to give this a 3.5 star rating rather than a 4 star one. First, there was quite a lot of exposition through dialogue which isn't to my taste and, in some cases, I felt it was out of character. I don't read a lot of fantasy but I am aware that sometimes world-building and scene-setting in the first episode of a series can make exposition a necessary evil and I'm happy to say it didn't spoil the flow for me.

Second, was the length. I was aware from other reviews that the novel stopped somewhat abruptly but I still wasn't quite prepared for it and, apart from anything, I just simply wished there had been more - which can be seen as a positive as well as a negative luckily. About two thirds of the way through things starting to get surprisingly creepy and I can't wait to see where that ends up going.


Inevitable (The Inevitable Trilogy #1)
Inevitable (The Inevitable Trilogy #1)
Price: £1.79

3.0 out of 5 stars An opportunity not fully realised?, 24 Jun. 2011
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The main concept of Inevitable is a very intriguing idea, a spirit of fate stepping into human form in order to make one mortal boy's life better before he commits a brave and selfless act, which will lead to his own demise. It started off well, each time Nathan and Apoxy crossed paths the things they did and their interactions were quite fresh and interesting but their relationship and the story as a whole lost some of its spark, ironically enough, as they became closer.

I can't put my finger on what it was exactly that stopped this from being great. Fate, choice and responsibility are deep subjects but they seemed to get glossed over, as though the plot wasn't giving the characters enough time to develop. Or maybe it was just so subtly handled that I missed it? Conflict is vital to drama but none of the characters acted particularly conflicted about the choices they were making, so some of that potential was wasted. Nathan is a sweet boy but a bit one-dimensional (no pun intended). Cammie is smart but came across as hard-nosed rather than feisty. Apoxy starts off quite engaging then gets a little whiny and - even if she does realise it - unfortunately it makes her less likeable.

I found the perspective it was written from slightly off-putting. Logically speaking, first person perspective should stop the narrator from being able to describe the thoughts and feelings of other characters because they are not inside their head - at first I overlooked this, rationalising that Apoxy is an omnipresent spirit so perhaps she is an exception to the rule, however, halfway through I couldn't apply that rationalisation anymore and it just seemed inconsistent. I don't have a burning need to read the sequel but I might read it some day.


The Replacement
The Replacement
Price: £4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Creepy and heart-warming - not two adjectives you often find together, 24 Jun. 2011
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This review is from: The Replacement (Kindle Edition)
Gentry is a town full of secrets, superstitions and unspoken fears. Mackie has spent his whole life trying not to stand out, which is far from easy when he has coal black eyes and allergies to blood, steel and consecrated ground. Mackie is different, he doesn't belong and everyone knows it, even if no one will admit it. Things are about to change though, not only is he getting weaker but a girl in his class, Tate, has decided she's tired of the town's silence and she wants answers - from him.

The Replacement is creepy, atmosphere and engaging. It is refreshing to find a paranormal-YA novel with a male protagonist and even better to discover that Mackie is somewhat of an anti-hero. He is not obviously brave, and he aches with alienation and guilt, which only increases as he learns more about where he came from and what happened to the child he replaced.

The picket fenced world of Gentry, trying to act as though it isn't rusting away and isn't aware that there is a dark underground world beneath it full of the grotesque and the beautiful, the kind and the cruel, seems to be a metaphor for who Mackie is. He is trying to put on the façade of being `normal', but his body is falling apart because inside he is different, he comes from a dark place but he is also full of love, even if he doesn't know how to express it very well.

At it's heart it feels like The Replacement is about learning to accept who you are as a person but it doesn't shove the message down your throat because nothing is easy, there is no neat, ideal resolution and none of the relationships are particularly simple. The character development is subtle and Mackie's friends and family are an interesting collection of people; Tate, Emma and Roswell are very well drawn and it never feels like they are just props to move the story along. The creatures from the underground are a little less so but it would probably have been impossible to give them all depth whilst keeping the pace of the story moving along.

The only thing that bugged me was why Mackie didn't ask one of the key questions anyone would want to know in his situation: who - or what - were his real parents? Perhaps that's something to come? I don't know if there will be a sequel to The Replacement, but I hope so.


Jamaica Inn (VMC)
Jamaica Inn (VMC)
by Daphne Du Maurier
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Packed full of adventure and atmosphere, 20 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Jamaica Inn (VMC) (Paperback)
Mary Yellan is one of my favourite heroines. Trapped at the desolate Jamaica Inn in loyalty to her mother's dying wish, she gets drawn into the sinister criminal activites of her menacing Uncle Joss. Anyone could forgive her for indulging in a little self-pity but that's not for Mary. Though frightened and at times desperately lonely, she refuses to let Joss bully and break her as he has her Aunt Patience.

Mary is not without her faults, at times her actions seem downright foolhardy - and she has a serious problem with eavesdropping - but her sheer courage, strength of mind and self-knowledge eclipse all those occasional frustrations. Jamaica Inn is part crime thriller and part period-romance but it also takes an unflinching look at some serious ideas about how traumatic events alter people and the complex power-struggles between men and women both in romantic relationships and out of them. The way these themes are weaved into the narrative so that the tension never falters is brilliant. If you are looking for a book full of heart-pounding adventure, atmosphere and romance wrapped up in beautifully descriptive prose, this is definitely for you.


Scissors, Paper, Stone
Scissors, Paper, Stone
by Elizabeth Day
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An elegant but not easy novel to read, 20 Jun. 2011
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This review is from: Scissors, Paper, Stone (Paperback)
When a car accident places Charles in a coma, his wife Anne and daughter Charlotte are left to examine their relationships and the events that have led them to that point.

Initially, though the prose was elegant, this did strike me as a kitchen sink drama. There is an awful lot of analogy used in consecutive sentences but as they are all very original, useful analogies it is not too distracting. The tense conversations could be a little wearing but could be excused due to the unraveling back-story. Many of the situations seemed so familiar that it was almost clichéd but that is always a risk when you are reading something that is an realistic portrayal of a normal life. Anne was a very difficult character to sympathise with and I was a little disappointed with one moment right at the end of the novel, which seemed to throw a token explanation out as to why Charles behaved the way he did. These points aside, it is Charlotte's emotional turmoil that made this novel something else, the description of her conflicted feelings and how she tries to cope felt painfully accurate. Overall, it was sometimes a difficult novel to read but there was a lot to admire in it's execution, language and delicacy.


Starcrossed
Starcrossed
Price: £3.59

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rebooting Greek Mythology, 17 Jun. 2011
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This review is from: Starcrossed (Kindle Edition)
Helen has always been the odd one out, trying desperately to blend into the background on the tiny island of Nantucket. Harder than it sounds when she possesses strength and speed that subconsciously she knows isn't quite human. When the Delos family arrive, not only is she haunted by terrifying dreams and visions, but a sudden, irrational hatred which pushes her into realising the true extent of her powers.

I was glad I persevered with Starcrossed as, initially, Helen's all-consuming rage towards Lucas and his family is a little difficult to be sympathetic to so early in the book. I hadn't yet warmed to her as a character so she was basically coming across as crazy. However, as soon as they Fury's are put in their place and Helen and Lucas begin to spend time together (minus the homicidal impulses) the story really starts in my opinion.

Although there is an enormous amount riding on their relationship, I like the pace at which it is handled as they don't jump straight into declarations of eternal love whilst their still virtually strangers. Their struggle between giving in to their feelings and doing the right thing is handled well and generates that sense of tragic inevitability that is synonymous with Greek mythology.

I'm no expert on the Classics but it is obvious that Starcrossed plays a little fast and loose with the original stories in order to fit its own agenda. I have no issue with that because, as I see it, it's all fiction but I'm sure it might annoy some people. I liked the observations that many of the characters in Greek mythology were damned if they did and damned if they didn't, as well as how cyclical a lot of events in those stories are. Fate is always an interesting concept.

I was pleasantly surprised by how visceral the action sequences are and look forward to the sequel, my only reservation being the hint that there will be some kind of love-triangle as I'm getting a little fatigued by that device in YA/paranormal-romance novels. I hope I'm proved wrong.


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