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Bad Science
Bad Science
Price: £2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A real education in the scientific method and critical thinking - but entertaining too, 17 May 2015
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This review is from: Bad Science (Kindle Edition)
Having studied biology and chemistry at A-level, while I'm far from an expert, I'm probably more knowledgeable about science than the average person on the street. And I'm certainly not one to panic about whatever the Daily Mail's decided to claim causes cancer this week, or to put my faith in homeopathic remedies, so I felt like this book might be preaching to the converted. Instead, I found it a bit of a revelation just how unscrupulous some providers or both traditional and alternative remedies can be and just how bad huge swathes of science journalism actually are.

This is far from a ranty polemic. While the author clearly has his own views, he puts his faith in research rather than opinion, and subjects everything from cancer treatments to detox regimes to the same level of scrutiny, starting from the principal that properly conducted experiments are the bedrock of all medicine. Throughout, he really shows his working. By the end, if you've been paying attention, you'll not just have learnt about specific examples of "bad science," but learnt what a good study should look like and the tricks people use. This isn't rooted in cynicism - far from it. The author is willing to give everything a chance, as long as there's strong research to back it up. And as a result, he scrutinises both medical journals and magazine articles and carries out his own bits of mini-research.

This was all very compelling. It's nice to read a book that actually teaches you something and that combines this with a bit of humour and some good storytelling. I felt that this should be taught in schools as part of both science and critical thinking.

I had a few complaints: though he was generally balanced and likable, the author occasionally came across as a little smug, and showed far too much disdain towards "humanities graduates." The book was slightly overlong and repeated a few key points over and over. Though I mostly enjoyed it, I found some parts to be a bit of a slog.

Still, this is a must read for anyone who realises that newspaper headlines about disease and the claims of some alternative medicine purveyors seem equally dodgy, but don't yet have the tools or knowledge to pick these arguments apart.


A God in Ruins
A God in Ruins
by Kate Atkinson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A simpler, but ultimately better, book than its predecessor, 17 May 2015
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This review is from: A God in Ruins (Hardcover)
I had extremely mixed feelings about the first book in this series, Life after Life (my review here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/R3G7I0T740S46J), which is based around the idea of Ursula, an upper-middle class English woman born in 1910, living and dying over and over again, making small changes with have huge effects each time. In my review of that book, I wrote:

"The book certainly had some good points. The heroine, Ursula, was likeable and well-developed. Her family, servants and friends were fleshed out and believable. The scenes set in the early 1910s and 1920s created a wonderful sense of time and place. The writing is great throughout, and on the whole, it made me want to keep reading. Interestingly, all of these would have been just as powerful with a straightforward linear narrative and despite the reincarnation theme being the book's major selling point (and certainly the thing that mainly attracted me) I actually thought that on the whole, it was the weakest part of the book."

In effect, my wish for the same writing and characters only with a more straightforward narrative is more or less what we get here.

Life after Life ends in an ambiguous and confusing way, that's provoked lots of discussion on book blogs and forums. Ursula kills Hitler (which has been hinted at throughout as being the reason for her constantly getting a second chance) but is immediately killed by his guards and born again once more. This time, she focusses on ensuring that both her beloved brother Teddy and his childhood sweetheart Nancy make it through the war (in every other life that's lasted beyond 1945, one or the other of them has died) and have a chance at happiness together. This could be seen as the culmination of her lives' work, or it could be seen (as the final chapter hints) that her cycle of reincarnation is genuinely neverending. Nonetheless, taking the book at first value, Ursula has placed saving her brother and his girlfriend over killing Hitler. So you've got to hope they make a go of their lives. A God in Ruins shows them spectacularly failing to do so, and as a result is utterly heartwrenching, both in and of itself, and with the context of the first book's ending at the back of your mind.

On the surface at least, this is a much more conventional tale than its predecessor. There's no playing around with Teddy dying and being reborn, just a beautifully told tale of his life from a boy in the twenties to an old man in the present day, with a particular focus on his life as a bomber pilot during WW2. It was a delight to return to the familiar characters, but this time around, without the reassurance that "it will all be better next life," I found it far easier to get emotionally invested in their fates. That said, it's far from a straightforward linear narrative. Most notably, the timeline is all jumbled up, with a chapter set in 1943 followed by one set in 1925, one in 1980, one in 1947 and so on. More subtly, within chapters and even within paragraphs and sentences, a narrator so omniscient that he'd have given a Victorian novelist pause reflects on earlier happenings and tells us things that will happen in the future. The same events take on different meanings depending on whether we are shown them as part of the past, the present or the future, and this is all beautifully handled, much more so than the resurrection in Life after Life.

And yet, in a way, the relatively conventional telling of the story is itself intriguing in the light of the earlier book. Speculation ran through my mind: which of Ursula's lives was this? The one from the end of Life after Life, or something else? If Teddy dies, will he start his life again too? And what happens when Ursula dies? In the earlier book, its as though time restarts, but here, when she dies in her fifties (and is presumably reborn) people in this timeline carry on without her. It all got quite wonderfully mind-spinning. And that's before you get to the final twist, which I was 50/50 between seeing as a cop out and seeing as total genius. Either way, it left me in tears.

Like the first book, this is ultimately about war and about family. Teddy, veteran of tens of dangerous raids, had almost reconciled himself to dying in the war, so living in peace proves a challenge. It left me thinking of the words we hear every Remembrance Day "we will not grow old as them who are left grow old. Age will not weary us, nor the years condemn," and with the chapter in 1993 called "we that are left," this verse must have been on the author's mind too. Poor old Teddy, more or less the hero of the first book, remains a lovely, if slightly dull, man, but gets thoroughly wearied and condemned. But while it reminds us that there is no such thing as a happy ending, there are touching, lovely scenes in amongst all the pathos.

The narrative structure is fascinating. The writing is beautiful. The characters and any number of times and places are artfully created. And the research that must have gone into recreating the experiences of a bomber pilot is truly impressive. Overall, a definite 5 star read, keeping all the strengths of its predecessor and benefiting from a change of approach, though be aware that it's really quite depressing in parts. In addition, while its structure is clever on its own terms, once I saw the big picture, it didn't gel well with the first book - I don't want to give spoilers, but this book's ending and that book's ending just don't work well together. Even so, this is a must read if you loved book one or even, like me, enjoyed it but found certain aspects frustrating. It's also worth a look if you like stories of WW2, books that give an overview of the twentieth century, or just artful storytelling.


Granny Was a Buffer Girl
Granny Was a Buffer Girl
by Berlie Doherty
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A very personal read for me, 9 May 2015
I'd always meant to read this book as a young teenager - it was heavily promoted as my school - but somehow never got round to it. I spotted a copy in a charity shop last week and dived into it in a fit of homesick nostalgia.

This felt like a very personal read for me. It's set in Sheffield, where I grew up, which isn't a place I've often seen represented in fiction. And when I have, it's tended to be a grim vision of strikes and/or post-industrial malaise. This book portrays the city as somewhere with a proud industrial heritage and sense of community, but just as importantly, a place where the town segues into the dramatic countryside of the Peak District and that has beautiful views from its seven hills.

It wasn't just the setting that got to me either. My Grandma, a Yorkshirewoman born and bred, died last Christmas, and while I don't think she'd been a buffer girl per se, she did work in the steel factories from the age of fourteen, so I wanted to read about the titular Granny to remind me of her.

From the title, I was sort of expecting a fairly gritty tale of life in industrial Sheffield in the early half of the twentieth century, but (almost to my relief) that wasn't really what I got. Instead, this is a collection of ten chapters that to all extents and purposes are individual short stories. Each of them gives a snapshot from the life of one of Jess, the nominal main character's, relatives, and each deals with the broad theme of love, be it romantic, familial, or platonic. This structure reminded me of a teenage version of one of my all time favorite novels, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, and if it never quite reached those heights, there were some really touching moments. I was on the verge of tears at several points, but I think a lot of that was due to the personal resonance. I'm not sure it would hit the average reader as hard.

The history, and the changing times, fashions and mores made for an interesting read. Rather strangely, the book was written in 1986, the year I was born, so the "present day" sections felt almost as historical as the bits set in the twenties or fifties. I can't quite decide if that added to or detracted from the book's appeal.

I have to say there were a few things that sat a little uneasily with me as a modern reader. The implication that it was touching that a woman stayed with her emotionally abusive husband. The suggestion that Jess was overly cruel in pushing aside a slightly predatory OAP. The idea in the titular story (probably my favourite) that the "granny" - then a girl in her late teens - did the right thing by immediately settling for marriage to the boy next door after being rejected by the man of her dreams.

Overall, this is a bit of an oddity, but worth a look, particularly if you have any connection to the area and/or a particular interest in twentieth century social history.


Ignite Me: Mafi Teen #3 (International Edition)
Ignite Me: Mafi Teen #3 (International Edition)
by Tahereh Mafi
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.76

4.0 out of 5 stars strong end to a great series, but not without its issues, 6 May 2015
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From about halfway through Book Two to about three-quarters of the way through this third and final instalment, I felt really quite in love with this series.

I loved our heroine, Juliette’s, increased physical/supernatural strength and emotional stability, and I loved the way that Warner became ever more nuanced and likable, while still maintaining an edge. I liked the way the emotional rollercoaster kicked in from page one and barely let up, and I liked both the scenes of restrained sexual tension and the really quite seductive more conventionally steamy ones. On balance, I think I liked the fact that, in homage to Juliette’s improved mental state, the author almost completely abandoned the strikethroughs and flights of fantasy, though part of me slightly missed the weird prose that made this book so unique.

So in summary, this is basically a fitting end to a great series, and if you’ve enjoyed things so far, you should definitely read this installment, though I preferred book two (5 stars) on balance.

That said, I did have some quibbles. The first was the extent to which crucial things were left unresolved. The most obvious was the lack of even a token explanation for where people’s powers had come from, but others including things like why Adam has a tattoo of the bird Juliette always dreamt about. And what the hell did Warner had to do to convince his father he was suitable to head Sector 45? Seriously, his father mentions how he did something awful, and Juliette never asks him about it.

Secondly, plot has never been at the forefront of this series. Character development, romance, and emotional intensity have always taken precedence, and that’s basically fine with me, it’s just the sort of series it is. But I would have liked to have seen a bit more action here, perhaps by speeding up some of the scenes of everyone training/sitting around emoting, and slowing down the final confrontation.

My biggest complaint, however, was probably the way the dealt with the love interests. Let me be 100% clear. It’s not the outcome that bothered me (which was 100% in line with what I wanted to see) but the way that she released Juliette from having to make a difficult choice. Rather than either having to break a nice guy’s heart and/or by having to come to terms with her attraction to someone who’s done terrible things, she made Adam significantly less pleasant than he’s ever seemed before and she attempted to explain away literally every bad thing Warner has ever done. Some of these explanations were clever, and were necessary to make him an at all palatable love interest, but I’d preferred that a little more darkness had been maintained. And while we’re on the subject of characters, in a world of nuance, the cartoonishly evil Anderson felt a little out of place.

I’ve lingered on these faults because it’s a shame to see such a genuinely good and potentially great series not quite fulfil its potential, but they didn’t actively detract from my enjoyment, and I’d still strongly recommend this.


Unravel Me (Shatter Me)
Unravel Me (Shatter Me)
by Tahereh Mafi
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Improves on book one in nearly every way for a genuinely sexy and emotionally intense novel, 4 May 2015
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Despite having some issues with the first book in this series, Shatter Me, I enjoyed it enough (particularly the last few chapters) to immediately pick up this sequel. I’m glad I did, because the things that made the earlier instalment good are present and correct and in many cases improved and most of the things I was less keen on – notably the wilder excesses of flowery language and the ultra-convenient plot points – have been resolved. There were still some strikethroughs and some strange metaphors, but partly due to an in-book calming of Juliette’s mental state and partly (I suspect) to an out of book maturing of the author’s style) they are much more restrained, and as a result, much more powerful when they do occur.

Plotwise, there are two key differences between this volume and the first, both of which should be obvious to anyone whose read Shatter Me.

Firstly, for most of the novel, the action moves to Omega Point, the rebel stronghold, and safe house for people with abilities like Juliette’s. Sadly, we’re seeing this amazing place through Juliette’s eyes, and initially at least, she mostly sulks in her room, so we don’t learn much about its ways or its inhabitants. I understood her fears and thought her behaviour was actually more believable than this traumatised girl suddenly been a happy part of a team, but it still made for a frustrating read.

Secondly, while still maintaining most of his role as primary antagonist, Warner makes clearer his true feelings for Juliette, and starts to feel like a viable love interest. Fair warning – this does all basically descend into full-blown love triangle territory. Personally, despite the fact it’s been horribly overdone recently, I still enjoy a good love triangle when it’s done well, and this is one of the best I’ve seen, particularly in this volume. But I know many people really dislike them, so if that’s you, I’d steer clear, as despite all of Omega Point’s plotting and a climactic battle towards the end, the romance is still centre stage here.

As a further warning, I’d strongly suggest that you read the novella Destroy Me before this, as it really explains his personality, demonstrates that his feelings for Juliette are genuine, and cast a different light on some of the seemingly indefensible things he does in Book One. Unless you really, really love genuine villains, I think you’d struggle to see him as an acceptable love interest if you haven’t got this background – however hot someone is, you probably shouldn’t get steamy with them if they previously made you torture a toddler.

Warner is an exceptionally strong character here, moving from the compelling but rather one-dimensional villain of the first novel to someone gloriously nuanced and conflicted, but still ultimately fun to read about and terribly sexy. His scenes with Juliette are a masterclass in sexual tension, surging emotions, and on her part at least, a desperate attempt not to give into forbidden love.

That’s not to say that there weren’t other strong characters or that nothing else interested me in the novel. I enjoyed some of the twists the plot took, and there were some great dramatic moments. James, Adam’s little ten year old brother, was utterly adorable and pretty funny, while Kenji, who I’d found infuriating in book one, trod a neat line between comic relief and voice of wisdom. And it was great to see a female character have a straight, platonic male friend for once. But at the same time, whenever Warner was offscreen for too long, some of my attention started to wane. This was particularly striking in the first fifth or quarter, where he doesn’t make an appearance at all, and nothing much else of note happens either. But from then on, things get very good very quickly, and overall, while it still had faults, I absolutely loved this, would highly recommend it, and went straight onto book three.


Shatter Me
Shatter Me
by Tahereh Mafi
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.74

4.0 out of 5 stars If sexy villains are your thing, look no further - as long as you can also cope with experimental prose, 4 May 2015
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This review is from: Shatter Me (Paperback)
I’ve seen this book recommended time and time again over the past year or two in online conversations where one or both of The Forbidden Game or Shadow and Bone have been mentioned and fans have asked for suggestions of other novels featuring a character who combines being a charismatic villain and a dark love interest.

I’ve got to admit that characters like that are a guilty pleasure of mine, and one of the main (though not the only) reason the two books mentioned above are amongst my favourites, so I was really looking forward to indulging. It’s worth saying upfront that you don’t really get a villainous love interest in this version – that bit of character development comes later in the series.

The writing is one of the first things you notice when you open this book. Words, and in some cases whole sentences, crossed out like this. Numbers everywhere. And overblown, surreal metaphors. At first, I struggled with this, but after a few pages, I started to get use to and perhaps even enjoy the author’s unique style. And as the book goes on, the strikethroughs and weird imagery become less frequent. It’s designed to show the initial state of mind of the main character, Juliette, who begins the novel after nearly a year in solitary confinement in a brutal asylum, an ordeal that’s come on top of an already traumatic early life. I’m not sure that this always worked, but I’d much rather an author tries something a bit literary and a bit different and not 100% hit the mark than just play it safe.

In the case of the plot, on the other hand, it did feel as though she played things relatively safe. There was little here likely to come as a surprise to anyone who’s read any YA dystopia before. That said, it was enjoyably dark (how many YA heroines can you think of who’ve killed a baby at some point?!) and the old ground was trod in a smooth and reasonably fresh way.

I’ve seen some reviewers complain about the world-building and the lack of action, and it’s a fair point. But I think that’s just something you have to accept. Fundamentally, this series is a character driven romance. It’s about Juliette falling in love and discovering her strength, and about the similar journeys that supporting characters go on. What wider plot exists is mostly an added bonus. If character driven romance isn’t something you’re interested in, them stay away from this novel. To read it and complain about the lack of action is a bit like watching Fast and Furious 83 and complaining that no one stops to discuss their feelings.

That said, there were some plot points that I found a bit ridiculous. First, the fact that the main love interest, Adam, has a tattoo of the same bird Juliette keeps dreaming about (this is never adequately explained). Second, the fact that no one in the world can touch Juliette without dying in horrible pain – with the fairly notable and convenient exceptions of said love interest, and Warner, the villain who seems to have a bit of a crush on her. To be fair, the author pulls of a decent explanation of this in the second book, but there’s still a degree to which it felt like the worst plot device ever.

I liked Juliette, and Adam was a perfectly solid love interest. With crushing inevitability, however, to me, Warner was by far the most compelling character, and I don’t think that’s just because of my natural tendency to be fascinated by the bad guys. That’s bad in the sense of “I’m running a brutal dictatorial regime” rather than in the sense of “I’m a bad boy who drinks and sleeps around” for the avoidance of any doubts. He made an excellent villain – definitely appearing as more evil than romantic for most of the book - and dominated every scene he was present for. It was a little unbelievable that a nineteen year old had been given this much power, but he was the son of the leader of the Reestablishment, and I suspect Saddam Hussien’s sons were similarly terrifying at a similar age. And it was a little convenient that he was that ridiculously good looking, but it made the book more enjoyable.

Overall, this was a strange read, merging a fairly clichéd but well-managed plot with a very unique writing style. There were things I loved and things that irritated me, but it was enough to make me read on, and the series only gets better from here, plus latter instalments help to convincingly explain some of the things that felt a bit too convenient in book one. So I’d recommend that anyone who likes this sort of thing gives the book a go, and bear with the series if you have some doubts at the end of it.

Finally, if you’ve already read this, I’d strongly recommend tracking down Destroy Me, a short novella told from Warner’s point of view that sits between the official first and second instalments, and which makes a lot of things make a lot more sense.


The Young Elites
The Young Elites
Price: £5.31

4.0 out of 5 stars Feels like an enjoyable copy of several good stories - until things move in a different direction, 14 April 2015
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This review is from: The Young Elites (Kindle Edition)
If someone had told me there was a book that basically takes the plot and characters of the Grisha Trilogy, pops them in a Renaissance Italy fantasy world instead of an Imperial Russian one, adds in a healthy dose of Assassin's Creed 2, and throws Warner from Shatter Me in there too, I'd have had two thoughts - firstly, "that sounds horribly derivative," and secondly, "that sounds like the perfect YA novel, and I must read it right this second."

The Grisha is probably my favourite YA I've read since I've been too old for the genre, the Renaissance was my specialist subject at university, and Assassin's Creed is my favourite computer game of the last five years. (I've never actually read Shatter Me, so I may be wrong on that one, but enough people have recommended it to me because off my love of villainous love interests that I feel like I can speak with authority!)

No one had given that me description of the Young Elites, but for the first 80% of the book, for better or worse, that's what kept churning through my mind.

In this Renaissance Italy-esque world, a strange disease killed every adult that caught it, marked every survivor, and gave a selected few strange powers linked to elements and emotions. Our "heroine" (I'll get to those quotation marks in a moment) Adeline knows she was marked, but doesn't discover she also has particularly special (but dark) powers until the opening of the book, years after the fever. She joins the titular Young Elites, a group of similarly gifted youths, and along with them, plots to overthrow the Queen and put the Crown Prince on the throne.

Said Crown Prince leads the Young Elites, controls fire, is super hot, brooding and charming, and is the perfect mixture of a slightly more chilled out Darkling and a slightly edgier Ezio (and is even called Enzo). Apologies to anyone who doesn't get either of those references, but basically, if he feels a little cliched, he's also basically everything you want in a romantic hero. We also have Teren, the psychotic, sadistic and obsessive leader of the Inquisition, tasked with wiping out the Young Elites, despite secretly having powers himself. He's also super hot and super intense, but miraculously, somehow manages to avoid becoming one side of a love triangle. He starts out as the villain and remains the villain despite having nice eyes. Whether he'll manage to keep this feat up in subsequent volumes is anyone's guess!

For that first 80% of the book, I really enjoyed it as a fun but predictable read. Everything was well done, but nothing felt really new or unique and nothing that happened really surprised me. Now, unlike some people who get up in arms about it, I don't really mind books not being original - after all, no novel's been truly original in centuries. Give me "good" over "different" any day. On the other hand, I never felt it ever quite reached the heights of the stories it was clearly inspired by.

Halfway through, I'd almost have put money on where I thought the plot was going to go, so it was a pleasant surprise when, towards the end, there's a major plot development that sends things off in a different direction and turns this into quite a different sort of novel. This turn of events genuinely shocked me and made my take far more of an interest in the book. It also made some of the comparisons feel a little less fair. It's hard to explain without giving huge spoilers, but as it's basically the USP of the series, I think I can get away with saying that the take home message seems to be that the "heroine" of this novel is basically going to be the villain of further installments in the series - and not even through the influence of a man! I didn't actually see much evidence of real villainy here, and I really wish the author had a)moved things in this direction earlier, and b) ramped them up a bit, and I hope she really goes all out in the sequel. But there's nothing I love more than a good anti-heroine or even villain protagonist, so I'm excited to see where this goes.

It's worth a read if you like the sources I've mentioned (and according to other people, also X Men, which I know nothing about), but if you ever feel it's too much of a rip-off, keep plowing on, and hopefully the ending will change your mind. This book didn't quite hit the heights of greatness, but I did enjoy it, and it's left me really looking forward to the next installment now the world is set up and the unique factors are coming out of the inspirations.


Vicious
Vicious
by V. E. Schwab
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

3.0 out of 5 stars worth a look if you like superheroes or want something a bit different, 14 April 2015
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This review is from: Vicious (Paperback)
I recently read the author's newer novel, A Darker Shade of Magic, and enjoyed it without being overwhelmed. I'm generally less interested in superheroes and villains than fantasy worlds, but I was intrigued to see what else she'd written, so decided to give this a go, and actually ended up preferring it. It offers two interesting main characters, both of whom are well developed and broadly believable, and both of whom tread a good line between hero and villain. It's also a clever and surprisingly realistic pseudo-scientific depiction of how people could gain superpowers and what living with them might be like. It has the intriguing idea that superpowers result from near-death experiences, and that the powers relate to what the person was thinking at the time they died/came back, which results in some interesting powers. It was fast moving, kept my guessing and had an well-executed dual timeline.
On the downside, there were some far too convenient plot devices (notably main characters coming across secondary characters with the exact right power at the exact right time) and while it toyed with the idea of there being a very fine line between hero and villain, it was very clear which of the two protagonists we were meant to cheer for.
Overall then, a fun and different read that's definitely worth a look, but that didn't blow me away. i'd give it 3.5 if that were possible.


Sky's End (Cassiel Winters Book 1)
Sky's End (Cassiel Winters Book 1)
Price: £3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Appeals to both my geeky and my romantic side, 8 April 2015
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This book strikes a good balance between reasonably serious sci-fi and swoony romance, and as a result, did a good job of appealing to both my geeky and my romantic sides. That said, it's worth saying upfront that the romantic (and sexy) side of things does take centre stage for large portions of the book, so I'd avoid this if you're a)male or b)really not into that sort of thing.

The plot centres around Cassiel, a twenty-year old woman whose older brother is a top space soldier. When he disappears, she decides to train with his old regiment in an attempt to find out what happened to him. She's not the only woman on the space base - though females are vastly outnumbered and therefore subject to a lot of attention - but most of the others are dedicated military types, which she is emphatically not. As a result, despite giving training and testing her all, she's on the verge of being kicked when the book opens, and still has no idea what become of her brother.

I really liked Cassiel. I liked that she was far from naturally talented, but that she tried her absolute best all the same. And I liked the fact that though she got a bit better, she never magically becomes top of the class. As someone who is equal parts malcoordinated and determined (and who has an incredibly fit and well-coordinated brother!) this felt like a quite believable portrayal of being somewhere that's really unsuited to your skills and trying to make the best of it. I also find the dynamics between siblings to be fascinated, so I enjoyed the fact that worry about her brother was a major driver.

The plot really kicks into life when Cassiel, despite being subpar at fighting and survival, is sent to spy on a race of aliens called the Thell'eons. The defining characteristics of the male Thell'eons as a race are: being very attractive, being excellent fighters, and being pretty horny most of the time. The defining features of the women, on the other hand, are having no interest in sex or any ability to feel romantic or sexual attraction to the males. Perhaps you can see where this is going, particularly if I point out that Cassiel is a bit of a hottie, especially in her skin tight space suit. It did all sound a bit like some sort of seventies softcore porn scenario, only in space! And yes, there were plenty of scenes of C going "phroar, look at that muscly alien" or said alien going, "wow, a sexually interested and available woman" but though there were a few chapters were it felt like thing might go that way, it never descended into pure erotica. Things definitely got steamy, but there's lots of plot and adventure along the way.

The two key love interests are the leader of one branch of the Thell'eons, Or'ic, and Lt King, Cassiel's missing brother's best friend and only equal, and pretty much a straightforward all-American space marine. Yes, there's straight-up love triangle. I still quite enjoy this ubiquitous plot device, but if it's a pet hate, you might want to steer clear of this. If I have a complaint, it's that the two of them are a little too similar. They are both well-built tough guys who can kill their enemies with their bare hands and wield enormous amounts of power, and they are both basically decent people. I think it would have been more fun if they were a bit more differentiated. I was also hoping that the alien love interest was going to be more of a borderline villain, or that there'd be some reason for a bit more tension. I should add that I generally prefer smooth talking and slightly sinister pretty boys as my romantic heroes, but the quality of the writing and the description did get me swooning over these ultra-manly types, and the hot scenes really are very hot.

Towards the end of the book, the romance comes down a notch and the plot thickens and becomes more overtly sci-fi, with lots of talk of parallel universes and rifts and singularities, and lots of gun fights and spaceship battles. I loved this too, though there were moments when I felt like I was reading two different books that didn't quite mesh together. I guess I'd have liked some of this heavier duty plot little earlier in proceedings.

Overall though, if you're a romance fan whose willing to embrace your geeky side, or possibly vice versa, I'd recommend this, and I'm looking forward to the sequel.


Foxglove Summer (PC Peter Grant Book Book 5)
Foxglove Summer (PC Peter Grant Book Book 5)
Price: £5.03

4.0 out of 5 stars Rural fantasy as a change from the urban variety, 1 April 2015
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After four books combining magical fantasy with hardboiled police procedural and extolling both the vices and the virtues of London, this fifth installment takes a slightly different approach by taking Peter Grant, wizard magician, outside of his urban comfort zone and into the wilds of Herefordshire. If the others feel a bit like a paranormal The Bill, this had more of the air of a paranormal Midsomer Murders - and as far as I was concerned, that was no bad thing.

Some people love London, and the author is clearly one of them, but despite or perhaps because of living there, it's never had much of a hold on my imagination. The English countryside, however, always feels magical to me, and I thought it was a great setting for this type of story. The plot is also a bit of a chance from the usual murders, and deals with perhaps the crime that holds the greatest sway on people's imaginations and gets the most frenzied press headlines - the disappearance of two young girls. In a terrifying blurring of ancient folklore, modern superstition and very real fears, it could be fairies, it could be UFOs or it could be pedophiles. It kept me guessing and it kept me worried, and after the interconnected mini-plots of the last few installments, it was refreshing to focus on one case in real detail. Also, there are evil carnivorous unicorns, and there's nothing to dislike about that!

The other big difference between this book and the others are that the key supporting cast are missing. Molly and Nightingale remain in London, as do the secondary police characters. And Leslie doesn't appear in person at all, although she and Peter do exchange cryptic text. For anyone dying to pick up that plot after the end of Broken Homes, this book resolutely fails to deliver, which was the one thing that really irritated me about it. On the plus side, Beverley Brook, relegated from main love interest in Book One to cameo appearances in the intervening books, is back to the fore here, and really gets a chance to shine. I missed the others a little - Nightingale is by far my favourite characters - but the book stood up well without them, and it was nice for Peter to get a chance to grow.

Although the overarching "faceless man" plot is put on the backburner, some of the wider backstory is elaborated on, when we finally meet another official wizard and old friend of Nightingale and get to hear some of what happened at Ettesburg and just how hardcore the head of the Folly really is!

In conclusion, this had a slightly odd feel to it, but it ended up being one of my favourite books of the series so far. I can see why it wouldn't gel with some people as well, but I think there's still something for all fans to enjoy here.


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