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Doom Rider
Doom Rider
by David Gatward
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining read, 13 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Doom Rider (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Seth Crow has been reincarnated over and over again, only to get murdered every time before he can even reach his teens. Is this time different? Can he find out why he's targeted and beat the odds?

This was a good yarn and I think young readers will enjoy it (I'd probably say 12 and up). Gatward has a really readable style, easy without feeling childish, and the description is great. Settings and characters are all really well drawn out. The pacing was a bit off towards the end, but it's fairly minor compared to how enjoyable it is overall.


Rooms
Rooms
by Lauren Oliver
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.88

3.0 out of 5 stars Ghosts need therapy too?, 13 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Rooms (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Richard Walker has died, forcing his estranged family to finally come to his house. So far so normal. Except that they're not the only inhabitants...

I was expecting a typical ghost story full of bumps and chill here, and it isn't one. It's more of a mystery about what's happening within the family and what happened to the ghosts who once walked the same halls. The book moves between rooms in the house, looking at the things that are happening and have happened there.

For all the mix of perspectives, I had a hard time finding any character that i really connected with or rooted for. They were all just so uniformly unlikable. I like Oliver's writing style and she did a good job of weaving a lot of complex strands together, and I liked the fact that it wasn't a stereotypical ghost story, but ultimately I didn't love the end result.


Dare Me
Dare Me
by Megan Abbott
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Depends on your personal tastes, 19 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Dare Me (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I didn't really enjoy this book - not because it's bad, but it's quite dark and unsettling.

The cheer squad gets a new coach, and immediately she butts heads with head cheerleader Beth - a prickly, dominant queen bee who's very possessive of her friends and unimpressed by the way Coach immediately endears herself to all the squad. It's then a tale of the backbiting power struggles that can mark high school cliques, culminating in a suspicious death.

What the book does well - though in a horribly creepy way - is examine the way adolescent girls can easily get in over their heads, so desperate yet ill-equipped to play with adults on adult terms. Similarly, it also looks at the foibles of adults (though you feel for the way the coach is victimised by Beth, she's too inappropriate and too reliant on the worship of the girls to garner much sympathy).

Maybe that's the problem - nobody really garners much sympathy and it's hard to care for any of them, even as you're understanding their struggles. The sense of unease and constant undercurrents of psychological combat leap off the page, and the conflicting and confused emotions really come across. But all in all I had this feeling of needing to know what happens yet at the same time being kind of eager to get it over with and get away from the characters.

I get a feeling that the exact things which made me recoil are what will enthrall other readers though, so I didn't want to give this a bad review. I think it's a book that achieves exactly what it's trying to, but whether you will enjoy that is a matter of personal inclination.


Spare Brides
Spare Brides
by Adele Parks
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Glamour vs Horror, 14 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Spare Brides (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The First World War didn't just steal the lives of millions of men - it left an entire generation of women alone at home to cope with their loss.

Spare Brides follows four of those women and looks at the aftermath of the war from their viewpoint. There's free spirited Ava, who chafes against her privileged life and resents being expected to slip back into her pre-war role after proving her independence at work. Widowed Sarah is consumed with grief. Lydia hides a secret shame after her husband's family pulls strings to keep him off the front line, and believes she is being divinely punished for it. Beatrice is facing life alone - she's only ever been brought up to expect marriage and motherhood but potential husbands are thin on the ground now that so many have been lost to the battlefields.

The book I think does a good job of contrasting the wealth and privilege of the world the women inhabit with the stark horror of war. They struggle to get back to normal in order to cope while desperately trying to put away the knowledge that they can't - many of the men they knew are dead, and of those who survived many are horribly wounded. The world has stopped and yet they're still expected to worry about which invitations to accept and dresses to wear. We see the men's experience through the eyes of Edgar Trent, one of the 'lucky' ones who has returned from the front in one piece but finds it hard to feel lucky. There is the usual scandal and intrigue as feelings simmer and they find themselves increasingly unable to hide their frustrations and their desire for more than the hand they've been dealt.

It was a very readable book and I found both the male and female characters well drawn. They were sympathetically drawn but their foibles made evident, nobody was perfect. You understood what they were doing even as you were disapproving of it. I liked the way Parks always showed the perspectives of both characters - when Lydia and her husband Lawrence chafe against each other over his serving at home rather than on the front, you can understand both of them equally.

If there was a let down it was predictability. The endings for each of the characters would surprise nobody.


The Inheritance (Swell Valley 1)
The Inheritance (Swell Valley 1)
by Tilly Bagshawe
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Readable but predictable, 1 Dec. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This tale revolves around the great house of Furlings in the Sussex countryside - its young heiress has been unceremoniously disinherited and will stop at nothing to reclaim the estate. Its ruthless new owner has other ideas...

As a bit of a silly romp there's plenty to be getting on with in this book. You have the typical cast of upper class toffs and new money, as well as various colourful village characters. There's sex and scandal and intrigue and lots of games of oneupmanship. The main character Tatiana is spoiled and brittle but not inhuman - she could very easily have been written to be the two dimensional socialite but does have some light and shade to her. The children of the new owners, Logan and Jason, both get given some sympathetically done storylines and added some interest to the book.

The problem I found was that it was all extremely predictable. You knew exactly who was going to end up with who from a few chapters in, you saw all the twists and turns coming and the book wasn't really different or funny enough to compensate for the lack of suspense. Tatiana may not be two dimensional but her property developer rival Brett Cranley certainly is, and there are a ridiculous number of characters listed in the cast list at the beginning of the book who have absolutely nothing to do. They're deemed important enought to include and constantly refer to yet they play not even the smallest part in proceedings. What's the point? Are readers supposed to know them from other books? It got very irritating hearing so much about how sexy cricketer Santiago de la Cruz is supposed to be and what a trouble maker world renowned model Emma Harwich is with no explanation or relevance to what was actually going on! I'm probably going to walk away from the book remembering those names best when they weren't even part of the story...

The thing that really killed it for me is that the book seems far too keen on the seriously outdated notion that men who behave atrociously towards women only do it because they love them and are the right guy for them. Glamourising toxic relationships is a popular trope I know but after spending the entire book watching one person try to destroy another it's hard to root for them to get together...


The Ghost Bride
The Ghost Bride
by Yangsze Choo
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Different and involving, 28 Nov. 2014
This review is from: The Ghost Bride (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Li Lan is a young girl in 19th century Malaya, a British colony where all manner of cultures mix but Chinese superstition still holds strong, especially in her house under the watchful eye of her loving Amah. For girls her age there is little on offer except trying to make the best marriage they can, but her bereaved and opium addicted father has neglected her prospects. One day, the rich Ching family makes her an offer - they'd like her to marry their son. The problem is that their son is dead...

I liked the way this story wove around the various mythology and legends about the Chinese afterlife. The setting is vivid, giving you a real picture of life in Malaya, and there were various different plot strands going on - Li Lan's own dilemmas, the mystery of why the Ching family wants her to marry a dead man and how he died, plus her own family history. Although this is ultimately a fantasy story, you almost forget that it is because of the way the supernatural is woven into and rooted into the place.

If I had one minor gripe it was that I felt the ending was a bit too tidy and convenient, but that really is minor compared to how engrossed I was the rest of the way through.


Pretty Honest: The Straight-Talking Beauty Companion
Pretty Honest: The Straight-Talking Beauty Companion
by Sali Hughes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.96

8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One for every woman who loves her lipstick, 28 Sept. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Beauty, for whatever reason, is one of those subjects where people tend to feel very out of their depth and like things are a lot more complicated than they are (applying eyeliner, knowing which type of skincare to look for, having the faintest clue what in the san Hell a tubing mascara is...). We're not talking about idiots or silly people who are slaves to advertising, but ordinary women who just feel a little overwhelmed by the choice and not sure where to begin.

Sali Hughes draws on her extensive years of experience and passion for beauty to deliver an honest, no-nonsense guide which feels like your best mate has sat you down with a glass of vino for a chat. More than that, it's just a really entertaining read. Her style is accessible, funny and incredibly reassuring. Without perpetuating harmful beauty ideals or peddling the pseudo-science the industry likes to use to con people into buying nigh on useless products (I fully share Sali's sentiments on toner), she demystifies and simplifies the whole thing while encouraging women to just have fun with it all. It's not a prescriptive list of dos and don'ts it's an endorsement that yes, of course you can try that shade or dye your hair or do whatever the heck you like. It's your face, and Sali will just help you work out how to do what you want to it.

More than one of my mates can expect this for Christmas...


The Greatest Love Story of All Time
The Greatest Love Story of All Time
by Lucy Robinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly entertaining, 15 Sept. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Greatest Love Story of All Time doesn't start out sounding like much of a love story - dumped on her 30th birthday when she was expecting a marriage proposal, Fran sinks into a pit of misery until blackmailed by her pals into trying internet dating on for size. She's firmly told she has to go on at least 8 dates before she's allowed to attempt getting her ex back...

The book is warm, funny and entertaining. Fran is a well rounded character - haphazard but capable, her foibles and the mistakes she makes are entirely realistic and relatable. The secondary characters are all memorable in their own ways and similarly well drawn; Robinson doesn't rely on lazy caricatures and even the minor charcters have a clear perspective (with one exception for me, but I won't name him/her so as not to prejudice other readers!). The pages flew by and the novel was a real giggle. The story flows well between flashbacks and present day and it never drags; I particularly liked the way that even in Fran's more questionable moments there's still real pathos and humour. Really good fun


Kipling Women's Halia TT A4 Shoulder Bag K10624B78 Black Pearl W
Kipling Women's Halia TT A4 Shoulder Bag K10624B78 Black Pearl W
Price: £81.60

4.0 out of 5 stars Thumbs up, 10 Sept. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I really like this bag. It's smart and comfortable to carry. There are a lot of zip pockets in there so it's deceptively roomy, and it's a good size for A4 papers so handy for work. Also easy to wipe clean and the extendable strap is a good size. It just feels very sturdy and secure.


Love at First Stitch: Demystifying Dressmaking
Love at First Stitch: Demystifying Dressmaking
by Tilly Walnes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.60

5.0 out of 5 stars All instructions should be written like this, 14 July 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Normally there is nothing I find more frustrating than an instruction manual or 'how to' guide. They're dry, they're confusing, they use specialist terms while inaccurately presuming you have any idea what they mean, and it takes several pages before you feel you can even attempt to locate the 'on' button.

Thankfully Tilly's guide is much more user friendly than that. It really lives up to the title because it really is a total demystification. It explains what all those weird terms are. It helps you get familiar with the parts of a sewing machine in a much easier to digest fashion than its manual will. It gives you hands on experience right from the outset so that it's actually demonstrating the things it's explaining even as you read through the book; I find this is the realy important thing because it's much easier to understand it in context like that. Tilly's style is light and breezy and makes what could be a daunting prospect seem incredibly doable!


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