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The Raven Boys (Raven Boys Quartet)
The Raven Boys (Raven Boys Quartet)
by Maggie Stiefvater
Edition: Paperback
Price: 3.86

5.0 out of 5 stars If only more books were like this, 5 Dec 2013
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I'm not going to go into the plot (other reviewers have already done that) - however, I do want to put on record how much I enjoyed this book (and I'm 41 years old). Good writing, however, transcends age. I'm not a sixteen year old girl but this novel made me remember what it's like being sixteen. Every character is so well drawn and multi-dimensional. They are interesting, complex and beautifully described. This book really has everything - plot, pace, characterisation, humour. I found myself re-reading certain phrases, just for the simple joy of how wonderfully the author conveys things.

I don't know how anyone could find this book boring - the writing alone sucks you in. It's intriguing, well plotted and every character is brought to glorious life. I think readers need to keep in mind that this is the first book in a series. Not everything will be tied up at the end and the pace is, necessarily, different to what it would be if it were a stand-alone novel.

I for one can't wait to read the next book (I'm about to buy the second one now).


The Shadow Year
The Shadow Year
by Hannah Richell
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.95

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Plot-by-numbers, 21 Nov 2013
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This review is from: The Shadow Year (Paperback)
SPOILER ALERT! Don't read if you don't want to know about the plot 'twists'

I don't normally include spoilers in reviews but it was the gaping plot holes and weak plotting that made this book such a disappointment for me. So if you want to know more, here's why:

This book frustrated me immensely. The plot was so transparent that I'd pretty much guessed most of what would happen by the halfway point. It was glaringly clear Mac was going to turn out to be William. So much so that I thought to myself, 'now what might Mac be short for? A surname? Maybe Mackenzie?' I was reading it on a Kindle, so I did a search for Mackenzie and, lo and behold, the plot really was that thin.

It was also pretty obvious who Lila's mum was going to be. I was hoping for a better, less obvious twist but that didn't pan out.

As for burying a body and no questions ever being asked, this required the reader to suspend their disbelief beyond what's reasonable. What about this character's return to uni? Did they have no other friends or contacts who might wonder where they had got to?

Then there was one final 'twist' which was revealed in the epilogue where we are re-told a scene that's taken place earlier via the same third-person narrative but this time it's embellished in a different way. Er, that's like having two bites of the cherry as a writer. You've already written that scene, so how are you changing it now?

The whole thing, plot-wise, was really quite amateurish. The writing was better than the plot itself but I still feel short changed by this book.


The Matrix
The Matrix
Price: 4.46

1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dull, 23 Oct 2013
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This review is from: The Matrix (Kindle Edition)
I've read Whispers in the Dark (many years ago now) and while I don't remember the book, I do recall enjoying it. However, I couldn't get to grips with The Matrix. I gave up at exactly 32% in on the Kindle. I think this was giving it a fair go, but I just found it exceptionally dull. It lacked tension, pace or atmosphere. Apart from hints of bad things to come, there was little to keep me reading, and what was there was very repetitive. There was a lot of looking for and reading books, a lot about learning Arabic, a lot of telling the reader about a dream the narrator had during the night - in fact, quite a lot of telling without showing. We're told how one of the characters could be 'wickedly funny' or how he showed 'not the slightest interest in me or my experiences'. My view is that a book is much more interesting if this is demonstrated in some way.

I kept on with the book, in the hope that the pace or story would pick up, but it didn't. Maybe it was about to, but I just grew too frustrated with the writing to wait and see.


How I Live Now
How I Live Now
Price: 2.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and absorbing, 18 Oct 2013
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This review is from: How I Live Now (Kindle Edition)
I'll start out by saying that I'm not normally a fan of authors messing with punctuation - dropping speech marks etc, so I was a bit wary about reading this and I was prepared to be highly irritated by it. However, this never happened. As soon as I started reading, I was drawn into Daisy's story and I could instantly see why the speech marks were dropped. In fact, it wouldn't have been so immediate and compelling had they been there. The only way I can describe it, is that reading How I Live Now was like being sat next to the narrator as they told you their story. The slightly breathless, tumbling narration was not the mark of a poor writer - far from it.

Meg Rosoff is clearly a hugely accomplished writer - her descriptions are vivid, engaging and compelling. The way the story built up - beginning with a magical English summer that took me back to my own childhood - was sublime. I don't think it matters here that we're not told much about Daisy's 'wicked stepmother', nor about the nuances of her eating disorder. It is enough that we engage with Daisy fully and wholeheartedly so that we are prepared to listen to what she wants to tell us (just as we would if we were listening to a friend). Daisy's had a past but it isn't that important - at least not once she becomes immersed in the world of her English cousins, embarks on her love affair with Edmond and is then, finally, plunged into the fallout from the war. No, the war isn't described in any detail. Again, this didn't matter - we knew as much as Daisy knew. We live through Daisy - she is our first and only source of information and, for that reason, I didn't find myself dissatisfied that I never knew exactly what the war was about.

Personally, I found this novel utterly beautiful and heart wrenching. I loved all the characters (because Daisy did) and I found myself sad to leave them. Four days after finishing this book, I'm still thinking about it - still wishing I was there with Daisy and her quirky, damaged family. As far as I'm concerned, that means a writer has done their job - and so much more. I will definitely be reading more of this writer's books.


Follow Me Down
Follow Me Down
Price: 3.49

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Cheap tricks and shallow characters, 8 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Follow Me Down (Kindle Edition)
SPOILER ALERT!

I don't think I've disliked a book as much as Follow Me Down in a long, long time. Nor, in all my many years as a reader, do I think a novel has left me feeling angry with the writer. There are so many things to dislike about this novel that it's hard to know where to start. Adamma, the main character, is actually quite unlikable. I wanted to like her but it was hard to warm to her - what should have been a strong, confident young woman simply came across as someone who was arrogant, spoilt and somewhat stuck up. While I realise Crofton was supposed to be a school for the wealthy, even so she came over as somewhat spoilt - maybe this was because the author tried to glibly drop in the fact Adamma drove a Mercedes and enjoyed a number of other privileges. It just jarred with me.

Then there was the very spurious rape claim. I won't go into detail - but in the real world, getting drunk and waking up clothed but missing knickers wouldn't cause most people (in the absence of any further evidence) to assume a rape. I mean who hasn't lost things (including underwear) after a night on the razz! It was just very weak - and coming from a legal background myself, I couldn't buy into it. Nor could I buy into the later entry, without search warrant, by a DC into someone's house - again, in real life, this wouldn't happen. I'm sorry, but if a writer is going to dabble in rape/murder territory, then at least gem up on basic legal facts.

There were also a number of grammatical howlers and typos that eventually became annoying e.g. 'The sun was on my face but I couldn't summon the strength to move it'. Don't worry Adamma - I don't think anyone could; even Geoff Capes.

Finally, the twist at the end ... well, I felt short changed. It relied, utterly, on a bad grammar and bad narration. There were times, as I was reading the novel, where I felt there was an over-use of the third-person 'he'. At times it became confusing and sentences seemed garbled. I found myself thinking 'which 'he' is the writer referring to?'. Also, flicking back (once the twist was revealed) there was an inconsistency in narration - necessary in order for the writer to fool the reader. Okay, so it tricked the reader - but that inconsistency didn't make sense in retrospect. The author has literally tied herself in knots trying to avoid using names, which makes for clunky writing.

In conclusion, this book that was trying to be too clever for its own good. It never seemed to flow naturally - but perhaps that's because the author was attempting to shoehorn dialogue and events into a twist ending. For me, none of it worked and, as I said, I found myself incredibly irritated by the end.


No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars Very elegant, 31 Aug 2013
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A really lovely, sparkly evening shoe. Looks much more expensive than it is. Unfortunately it was too narrow for my mum's foot (you'd need to be a slim-footed size 5) so we had to return it. Sizing is always a risk you take when ordering online though and not the fault of the seller or the shoe. So, if it does fit, you'll have a reasonably priced evening shoe that is different from the ream of platform heels in the shops right now.


Puzzle Mates Puzzle and Roll Jigroll with Two Fastening Straps
Puzzle Mates Puzzle and Roll Jigroll with Two Fastening Straps
Price: 6.99

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible product, terrible service from Amazon, 27 Aug 2013
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This item is totally unfit for purpose. It's almost like something a school kid would knock up using a cardboard kitchen roll holder and some fuzzy felt (and no more effective). The moment you start rolling your jigsaw up, you can feel the pieces coming apart, and they come apart even more when you unroll it the other way. So, what's designed to keep a jigsaw intact until you want to return to it, actually splits it apart.

I went to send this back for a refund and was pleasantly surprised to see a note pop up saying, 'have this on us, there is no need to return it'. So I waited for a refund which never came. When I contacted Amazon to ask where the refund was, they told me I needed to send it back. So - appalling quality and equally terrible service.


Dune Women's Black Wedges GLIDE 8 UK
Dune Women's Black Wedges GLIDE 8 UK
Offered by AVIDES UK
Price: 37.99

1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible quality, 25 Aug 2013
I bought these sandals in the blonde colour. Whilst I loved the style and comfort, the quality is appalling, considering they're Dune and cost 65. If anything looks like it's cheap tat made in China, it's these shoes. There is nothing robust or enduring about them. I appreciate part of their appeal is that you're probably supposed to forget that you're wearing them but this is still no excuse for what seems like a wafer-thing covering of leather over the heel and at the front. In fact, I wore them once for about an hour - just to walk to the local shops. By the time I got home, the leather at the front had scuffed up. I didn't do anything whilst wearing these sandals that should have warranted them looking the way they did. It's poor craftsmanship, pure and simple. When you compare the leather and build to the type of sandals you find in Jones the Bootmakers, these sandals are hugely inferior. In fact, they're inferior to almost every shoe/sandal/boot I've bought over the past ten years (including shoes from Clarks, Top Shop and Shoe Zone!)


Wool (Wool Trilogy 1)
Wool (Wool Trilogy 1)
by Hugh Howey
Edition: Paperback
Price: 3.50

15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Started out well but went downhill (bit like the Silo steps), 5 July 2013
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This review is from: Wool (Wool Trilogy 1) (Paperback)
SPOILERS AHEAD

This book started out well - an intriguing concept (people living below ground, a hostile environment outside (or is it?), control, duplicity, lies, secrets) ... However, while I was expecting this to pan out into a Brave New World/ Lord of the Flies type scenario (i.e. some intelligent comment on how communities survive and evolve in isolation and the impact of discovering they've been lied to), the book veered off into an 'action adventure'.

Except it wasn't very exciting action - there was a lot of running up and down the silo steps, a lot of almost-dying by the female lead and long, boring sections on getting mechanical gadgets, radios, pumps and suchlike to work. This wasn't an intelligent novel and, because of this, the author missed a trick. More of a spoiler here ... but when Jules encounters Solo in Silo 17, we're expected to believe that an old bloke who's lived most of his life in isolation would be as sentient and understandable as he is. Unlikely! He'd have been pretty feral. Same goes for the other, younger survivors. To me, this would have been the most interesting aspect to explore - the effects on people when their own societal structure has broken down. But now, instead these people are also pulled into the author's favourite activities of running up and down stairs and getting equipment and pumps to work.

By the end, I just couldn't care less about any of the characters or the world of the silos. I certainly won't be hurrying to read the next book for more of the same.


Cirque Du Freak (The Saga of Darren Shan Book 1)
Cirque Du Freak (The Saga of Darren Shan Book 1)
by Darren Shan
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Basic and unengaging, 19 Jun 2013
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I'm sorry, but I simply couldn't get beyond chapter 4 (very short chapters) of this book. It was written in a very basic, childish manner. And before people start jumping on me saying, 'well it's a kids' book', so are The Hunger Games, Twilight, Harry Potter, Narnia, Divergent, The Knife of Never Letting Go, Northern Lights - and a whole host of others which, while aimed at a young audience, are written in a compelling and interesting way capable of crossing age ranges and engaging adults too. I'm 40 - however, I love escaping with well-written kids' novels. Unfortunately, this book seems to be solely aimed at teen boys who won't read unless things are put in a very basic manner. Oh, and the over-use of exclamation marks was irritating in the extreme. For me, this novel was a major fail. While I can't comment from the POV of a 13 year old boy, I can comment as to whether adults would find this book engaging and interesting and, for the most part, I don't think they would.


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