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Daughter of Smoke and Bone: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy Book 1: 1/3
Daughter of Smoke and Bone: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy Book 1: 1/3
by Laini Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars It will sweep you away with the beauty and magic of it, 18 Aug. 2013
I knew from the first line of this book that I was going to fall in love with it. For me, I can often tell from the first line of a book whether or not I'm going to like it. That sounds a bit presumptuous but if a first line doesn't grab me, it's rare that the rest of the book will be much better. From the first line of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I knew that something out of the ordinary was going to happen.

This is one of those rare books where it's not just the fantasy that's gripping; it's the everyday life of the character. For one, our heroine Karou lives in Prague which makes the setting so much different from your average American setting. Also, her ex-boyfriend gives ghost tours around the city where he used to have Karou jump out at unsuspecting tourists to scare them. What's more, Karou's best friend comes from a long line of puppeteers. She also entertains her friends at art school with her many sketchbooks filled with drawings of mysterious magical creatures. And, on the first day we meet Karou, she ends up drawing her ex-boyfriend in life drawing. There's nothing boring about Karou's life, supernatural or not.

But Karou leads a mysterious life that even her best friend Zuzana knows nothing about. Every now and then she has to go on strange errands for Brimstone, the Chimaera whose shop (set in a strange other world she knows nothing of) is the only home she remembers growing up in. But aside Brimstone's errands, Karou's life gets even stranger: she can't remember the first few years of her life. The first memory she has is being in Brimstone's shop at an early age, but she remembers nothing before that, and has no family to speak of. The mystery of Karou's identity had me on tenterhooks, hungry for answers. I can't explain how deeply I was pulled into this book; I'm not sure I've been so desperate for answers since Harry Potter. It's THAT good! But then strange handprints appear on doorways across the world, including the doorway Karou uses to get to Brimstone's shop, sealing it off and preventing her from seeing him. Exiled from the supernatural world, Karou will do all it takes to get back and find the only family she has ever known. But an altercation with Akiva, a vengeful angel who hates Chimaera, changes Karou's life more than she could ever imagine and may stop her from finding her family and discovering her past.

I really enjoyed the romance of this story. I can't stand when authors get carried away with a romantic sub-plot; I enjoy romance but only when it doesn't get in the way of the main plot or take over the story. Taylor did not disappoint; the romance was actually essential in many ways to the plot. It felt natural and added to the beauty of the book. The real question for me was the massive revelation at the end of the book and whether or not the romance would continue. There is a huge shock at the very end of the book, on the last page even (Be prepared for a bit of a cliffhanger!) that left me reeling and had me wondering how the story, and especially the romance, can possibly play out from there.

The best part about Daughter of Smoke and Bone for me was the way it was written. The prose is almost poetic; it has this beautiful, melodic feel to it that blew me away so completely. It makes almost every other book I've ever read look badly written. It's as though every single word has been carefully thought out, every syllable intentional, and it creates something more magical even than the story. So I have to admit, when I came on to Amazon and saw all the less than satisfying reviews, I was SHOCKED. I feel like I must have read a different book from everyone else because this is now one of my favourite books of all times. I'm very picky about books, I have a mental checklist in my mind, and I have to say Daughter of Smoke and Bone checked every box, twice over. I don't think I would change a thing about it. So ignore all the bad reviews: this is an original masterpiece, pieced together carefully and intentionally to make one of the most amazing books you will ever read. It's dark and it's beautiful and it's a MUST READ.

Reached: 3/3 (Matched)
Reached: 3/3 (Matched)
by Ally Condie
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A satisfying finale, 17 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Reached: 3/3 (Matched) (Paperback)
Everyone has dystopia fever. Thanks to the Hunger Games, a huge number of YA dystopians have made their way into our bookshops and the Matched series is just one of many. This series takes place in a world where everything and everyone is controlled. Cassia's rebellion began in Matched and in Crossed she finally found and joined the Rising, and in Reached we find not just Cassia and Ky secretly working for the Rising, but also Xander. Cassia is a Sorter and supposed to continue the pretense of her Match with Xander, who is now a Healer, while Ky is working as Pilot for the Rising, alongside Indie. All three main characters narrate this story, allowing us to see the rebellion from all angles.

If you've read the rest of the Matched series you'll know that Condie's novels aren't action-packed. They're always interesting and mostly gripping, but that's because of Condie's thoughtful writing style. There's something really satisfying about reading a story that feels thoughtful and planned out, where the characters take the time to think about what's happening and consider what it all means, rather than just going from action scene to action scene. Reached doesn't disappoint in this way.

The problem here, though, is that this style of writing doesn't have as much of an impact unless the characters have distinctive voices. If you've read my review of Matched you'll know that one of my issues with this series, as much as I love it, is that the characters feel a little underdeveloped. Take Ky for instance; he comes across as a gentle, compassionate guy who wants to change the world. But given his history, I find this hard to believe; I'm sure that after everything he's been through he would be a bit more rough around the edges, which would actually make him quite an attractive YA hero. Likewise I would expect Cassia to be far more bitter than she is. So given their lack of distinctiveness, they have a tendency to all blend into one, with the result that if you changed a few key details here and there, it could be any of the three main characters narrating. Perhaps for this reason some of the twists of this book weren't as hard-hitting as they should have been. Another problem for me was that I often had trouble remembering what happened in Crossed, or even Matched. It's been a while since I read either and Reached refers frequently to the events of Crossed in particular without giving much explanation as to what actually happened for anyone in need of a reminder.

In spite of those minor criticisms, Reached is actually really enjoyable. It may not be fast-paced but there is plenty going on and the three have such different roles in the Rising that you get a good idea of what's going on in so many parts of the rebellion. I really enjoyed Cassia's interaction with the archivists and watching her pass on what Ky has taught her to others. I was also relieved to see Xander finally begin to move on and developing a friendship with someone other than Cassia and Ky. You'll get a lot of closure from reading this book, and there are a few surprises along the way, and it was probably this that I enjoyed most about the book. It's a well-written, interesting finale with plenty of politics and lots of loose ends finally tied up. If you enjoyed Matched and Crossed, Reached is a must-read.

Price: £4.74

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A frighteningly realistic portrayal of the future, 17 Aug. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Matched (Kindle Edition)
Every dystopia has a different "cure" for today's problems. Whether it's teenagers fighting to their death in an arena to pay for society's historic crimes against the government; dividing society into factions depending on the different virtues people exhibit, at the expense of all other virtues; or eradicating love and calling it a disease, every dystopian society has based itself on one ideal in particular to make the "perfect" society. In Matched, the main idea is control. If the government makes all life's big decisions for its people (who you marry, where you live, what job you do, how many children you have, even when you die), there will be no more crime and everyone can live in harmony. When the government even controls what information you have access to (choose from the 100 Songs or the 100 Poems or the 100 Stories or the 100 Paintings etc. but you won't be able to get your hands on anything else, and forget about being taught how to write - creativity is discouraged), how can you ever know not to trust them? How can you ever know that once society was very different and that it wasn't so bad? That's the situation our heroine Cassia is in until the day she is Matched - the day she finds out who she will spend the rest of her life with. On that day, everything changes. Why? Because not only has she been matched with her best friend from childhood Xander, but another face also flickers on the screen as her Match: the face of Ky, an Aberration who is permitted to live in society but without privileges, such as being Matched. So if Ky is not supposed to be Matched, why did Cassia see his face?

This "glitch" changes everything for Cassia. It doesn't matter how much Society tells her that she should not have seen Ky's face, the fact that she saw it causes her to wonder about Ky. Is he her perfect Match after all? And if he is, does that mean that Society's system has failed because he's an Aberration or does it mean that it works because it Matched her with someone she now finds herself drawn to? Now the more Cassia sees Ky, the more she is intrigued by him and the more he draws her into a world she barely knew existed. He teaches her how to write and he teaches her that there was once more to life than what Society would have people believe. At the heart of it all is poetry, and some beautiful poetry is included here, so treasured by Cassia because not only is it a gift from Ky, but because society completely outlaws it. Matched chronicles Cassia's journey as she wakes up from the controlled slumber everyone in the Society is under and begins to question what is going on around her for the first time.

The reason Matched works so well is because most of us live in a society where freedom is one of our most precious commodities. For many of us, to live in society that controls our every thought and action Nineteen Eighty-Four-style is the worst society imaginable. For dictators, the best way to crush rebellion is to prevent original thought and to limit what information your subjects have and as there are societies in the world today similar to this, it's not hard to conceive of the Society of Matched really existing. Likewise, it's easy to see how a teenager who sees a flaw in a perfect society might begin to rebel. For me, that was the best part of Matched because it felt so real in that sense.

The problem it does have is characterization. Honestly it's the same flaw a lot of YA novels have, but I found the characters to be almost a little bland. Cassia definitely has her moments, though, and you have to admire her courage to rebel the way she does and her desire to seek freedom. I can't say the lack of real depth in the characters stopped me from enjoying Matched, and while the story isn't full of action, Condie's writing is detailed and descriptive making it a pleasure to read.

The trilogy is now available for the whole of Matched and I wholly encourage everyone to read the series, though Matched is without a doubt the best of the three. It's thought-provoking and an interesting take on the YA dystopia; a must-read for lovers of dystopia!

by Rachel Hartman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing dragon fantasy in a world I want to live in!, 16 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Seraphina (Paperback)
You will never read anything quite like Seraphina. Not only is it uncommon to find high fantasy with a female heroine, but it blew my mind with its originality. Don't be fooled by the dragon on the front cover, or the the review from the author of Eragon: this isn't your typical dragon story. What it is is a story you'll want to read over, and over, and over again. For me, the moment I put it down I almost wanted to pick it back up and read it again!

To tell you the plot of Seraphina would be counter-productive. Discovering the plot of this story is part of the joy of reading it, so much so that I was pleased I knew nothing about it when I read it; it's a plot that gradually reveals itself as you read so that you don't know what's going to happen from one page to the next. Actually, as odd as it sounds, the plot is irrelevant to the magic of this book. The reason you'll love this book is because of the world Hartman has created and the characters she brings into it. I've never before come across the idea of dragons being able to take human form, which perhaps just shows how little I know about dragon stories, but Hartman used this to explore prejudice between humans and dragons, a key part of this story.

There's so much about this book to love! Other than the dragons, I LOVED the religion and culture of Goredd, Seraphina's country. I'm a big fan of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books and the saints in this story, whose names are often invoked, reminded me of that series (a series I recommend to anyone who enjoys their fantasy clever and funny!). I admit though, with all these details I sometimes lost track of what they all meant! Luckily there's a handy glossary at the back of the book (one I annoyingly didn't discover until I'd finished!) and you may find yourself flicking to it from time to time. But none of that distracted from the story; actually I really feel that it added to it and made it feel more real. The world-building does take some time and the story is very detailed, but I found myself thirsty for more and more details, drinking in every tiny bit of information given greedily.

I really found myself identifying with Seraphina. Being about ten years older than the target audience for YA, it's rare that I connect with a heroine as much as I connected with Seraphina. In my experience, a lot of YA heroines try so hard to rebel from the damsel-in-distress that they become feisty and angry, but Seraphina is something different. She's mature and down-to-earth, and while she's definitely more kick-ass than damsel-in-distress, she's more thoughtful and a lot less self-absorbed than so many YA heroines. If her age wasn't mentioned in the book, you could be forgiven for thinking she was five or ten years older than she actually is. Neither is she the feminist you find in a lot of fantasy with female narrators, which is something that has never appealed to me. Seraphina isn't the only character in the book that you'll love, though, and a lot of the enjoyment in reading this book comes from reading such strange and diverse characters.

And of course, what YA fantasy novel would be complete without the romance! Luckily, neither Seraphina nor the story changes when Seraphina realises she is falling for someone. It is woven so beautifully into the story that I didn't have any idea that Hartman had been working her way towards it until it happened. When it happens, though, it's heartbreakingly beautiful and you will feel for Seraphina who finds herself unintentionally caught in an impossible situation.

Without a doubt, Seraphina is now one of my new favourite books. It was humorous and adventurous both at the same time, and I even found myself pouring over the glossary after I'd finished the book to learn more about this amazing world Hartman has created. I can't describe my excitement for Shadowscale, the next book. It can't come soon enough!

The Lunar Chronicles: Cinder: 1
The Lunar Chronicles: Cinder: 1
by Marissa Meyer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.24

4.0 out of 5 stars Cinder: a dystopian fairytale, 12 July 2013
Never before have you read a fairytale quite like this one. Meyer has retold Cinderella in a way that I would describe as Disney meets the Hunger Games: it's your basic Cinderella story, the poor servant girl with the evil Stepmother and Stepsisters, the handsome Prince and the ball. But there are two major twists: not only is it set in a dystopian future, but Cinder is a cyborg.

I absolutely loved this completely original story and it stayed with me long after I finished it. It's one of those stories where you'll want to make sure you have the sequel handy ready for when you finish - it's addictive and mind-blowing!

In many ways, Cinder is an ordinary teenage girl living in New Beijing, a city many years in the future. She lives with her stepmother and two stepsisters, having lost her beloved stepfather. In this retelling of the fairytale, it's obvious why her step-family hate her: not only do they blame her for the death of their beloved husband and father, but Cinder is also a cyborg and therefore she is their servant and is an inferior in society. But one day, while working in the market for her step-family, she receives an unexpected visit from the Prince himself, armed with a beloved family robot who has been put mysteriously out of action.

The arrival of Prince Kai doesn't just bring with it the tantalising hint of future romance (he's taken with Cinder right away, but she's just taken aback!), but it also dangles mystery and intrigue right in front of you, the answers just out of reach. Something dangerous is happening and Prince Kai needs to stop it. "Imagine there was a cure," he later asks Cinder, "but finding it would cost you everything. It would completely ruin your life. What would you do?" This is the ethical dilemma placed upon our fairytale prince/dystopian hero: he can prevent the deaths of millions of people from a mysterious plague, but at what cost?

The enemy in this story is far worse than just an evil stepmother with a petty grudge, and no fairy tale would be right without a dangerous villain. Enter the Lunars: a race of people living on the moon who have the ability to control people's minds. Most dangerous of all is the Lunar Queen, Queen Levana, who desires more than anything to control Earth and will stop at nothing to reach her goal.

There are so many reasons you won't be able to put this book down: Will Cinder and the Prince finally get together? What secrets are the Lunars hiding? Will Queen Levana take over earth and will she use Prince Kai to do so? Will her actions thwart any chance of romance between Kai and Cinder? What causes the plague and why is Cinder immune? Why was Prince Kai's robot put out of action and what secrets does she hold? What dark secrets lie in Cinder's past, lying out of reach of her memories? How did she become a cyborg? What happened to her real parents?

Admittedly, I guessed a few things before they happened, like Cinder's background. I also got a bit frustrated with Cinder for not trusting Kai enough to tell him that she's a cyborg. But I loved that there were so many secrets, so many mysteries that needed to be solved, and many of which are still not solved at the end of this book (or at the end of the sequel, Scarlet either!). Be prepared for a wait on that front. But, from someone who doesn't like waiting when it comes to mysterious plots, the drawing out of it all actually makes the book better. It doesn't feel dragged out for the sake of it; it feels well thought out and meticulously planned - I would compare it to Harry Potter on that front because you can tell the author has the series planned.

"Cinder" is an incredible start to a series of fairy-tales with modern, dystopian twists. The moment I finished it, I had to read "Scarlet" and I couldn't even wait to get my hands on the book so I downloaded it to my kindle right away! "Cinder" (and "Scarlet"!) is unputdownable. It's one of those books that will have you wishing life had a pause button so you could just read "Cinder" cover to cover without any interruptions! If you don't pick up "Cinder" and make reading it your top priority, you'll be missing out on a gem of a book. Now to wait for 2014 for "Cress" to be published...

FrostFire (Daughter of the Flames)
FrostFire (Daughter of the Flames)
by Zoe Marriott
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Frostfire will pull you in and make you believe it's really happening, 9 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Frostfire is a book with a PULL. It's one of those too rare books that pulls you in and makes you forget the world around you actually exists. It's a thrilling tale with plenty of action, fantasy and romance, and once again Marriott shows off her amazing skill at universe building.

A skilful storyteller, Marriott lures us into this world of Frost, a 17-year-old girl living in a world that isn't our own, who has battled her whole life with something she calls "the Wolf". Accused by many of being possessed by a demon, Frost has known since the age of 8 that if her blood is spilled, an uncontrollable rage will take over her body that she is unable to control until it's all over. Many times Frost has narrowly escaped being punished for the actions she cannot control with death, but each time she has managed to escape. But not this time.

Now, Frost has been captured by the beautiful Captain Luca and his best friend and lieutenant, the dark and surly Arian. Frost is held hostage high up in the Subira mountains where she soon learns Luca leads a troop of soldiers, planning for the day when they will attack their enemy, the evil Constantin. This is a man whose enjoyment of the suffering of others knows no bounds and who is now responsible for the slavery of the dark-skinned people in the country of Ruan, where this story is set. Frost will do anything to stop this slavery and when kind-hearted, optimistic Luca gives her the chance to become one of those who will bring down Constantin, she seizes the chance.

What ensues is a captivating story told in the midst of beautiful scenery and it is ultimately a story of love and betrayal. Frost has only ever been treated with fear and hatred, and Luca's acceptance of her is not one that she finds easy to accept. The romance that blossoms is not without its bumps in the road, not least because of "the Wolf", but both characters feel so genuine and so easy to love that every bump for them feels like a mountain of heartbreak for the reader. Their love is so enthralling that even the love-triangle sub-plot, which has become so cliché since Twilight, seems to melt so easily into their romance and come so naturally for the characters that it added to the story rather than distracting from it. The same could be said for the sub-plot where the girl is torn between the good brother and the bad brother, reminiscent of The Vampire Diaries. After all, this is neither Twilight nor TVD and a comparison to either would only insult Marriott's beautiful storytelling. Any readers desperate for a heroine who stands up for herself and fights along with the men will love Frost; likewise anyone who wants to read about a hero who doesn't try to shield his girl from all the world's evil, but trains her to fight and use the many skills she has already acquired, will love Luca, and perhaps Arian too.

There's no insta-love here, either. Frost falls in love gradually as the book progresses, and as readers we're pulled along with her, caught up in these feelings of desire, fear and confusion. It can't be said that she always acts selflessly, but after almost losing everything she had come to care about she realises the crucial difference between infatuation and love. This is a lesson many teenage heroines could do with learning. (Bella are you listening?!)

Don't be fooled into thinking this is the story of a love-sick teenager, though. Yes there's love, but also friendship, touching customs of a world not our own, realistic battle scenes, death, meaty characters with hidden pasts... FrostFire has a bit of everything. But the main theme of this book is finding yourself. Frost finds herself in the most unexpected way, and with a little help she may even come to accept the demon she has been battling her whole life.

It has to be said, Zoe Marriott writes like no one else. Her ability to create new worlds, and characters that feel tantalisingly real, feels generally unrivalled in the current YA fiction market. Her books are worth picking up if you haven't read her already (and if you have, there's no debate about whether or not to read FrostFire), and don't worry if you haven't read Daughter of Flames as this is a companion novel, not a sequel. But if you like your heroines tough, your heroes worthy, and your books unforgettable, FrostFire is for you. The only drawback you'll find here is being able to find something to read afterwards; the FrostFire comparisons will inevitably be there and there can only be one winner.

How Do You Know [DVD] [2011]
How Do You Know [DVD] [2011]
Dvd ~ Reese Witherspoon
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £3.50

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A quirky, thoughtful approach to romance, 4 May 2013
This review is from: How Do You Know [DVD] [2011] (DVD)
I've been putting off watching this film for a while. The trailer looked boring and gave me the impression that this would be your average romcom, about a girl who can't choose between two different guys and wants to know how you know what love is. That probably explains the bad reviews because that's not what this film is at all!

Within minutes of the film beginning, we get a first glimpse of Reese Witherspoon, our heroine, and it was this glimpse more than anything else that made me realise this film was going to be a bit different. Why? Because she's a professional athelete! Immediately I knew she would be an interesting heroine, not one who would wait around for the hero to come along and moan to her friends in the meantime about how hard life is, but the kind of girl who sees what she wants and grabs it.

How Do You Know isn't your average romcom. For starters, you WILL need to pay attention or you'll miss some really interesting moments and conversations, it's the kind of film you need to focus on 100%. It's a James L Brooks film and if you've ever seen any of the other films he's written or directed (Spanglish is a personal favourite but you're more likely to be familiar with As Good As It Gets, also the same guy who writes The Simpsons), you'll know he doesn't make shallow, meaningless movies. They touch on real issues without glossing over them, usually with quirky characters, and yet it will still pull you in for the romance and the comedy.

One thing I love about this writer/director is that he gives a chance for actors to really shine. In Spanglish it was Adam Sandler, and here you'll see a whole new side to all four leads, but most especially Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd. They create these brilliant quirky, three dimensinional characters who are fascinating to watch. I loved Witherspoon's Lisa, who was determinedly optimistic, and unafraid of apologising when she failed to meet the standards she met for herself. Meanwhile Rudd's George is faced with a rather big problem and I loved how he tackled it honestly and selflessly. Nicholson was also fantastic as George's father, and Wilson, who I've never liked, suits the womanising athlete who keeps a drawer of toothbrushes and a cupboard of women's clothes for the frequent one night stands.

So yes, this film has been marketed as a romcom, probably to appeal to the mass market. And it is romantic and it is funny, but in a more serious, mature way. This is no Katherine Heigl or Kate Hudson movie; this is a fascinating story of two separate people who are suffering real, insurmountable problems and whose paths at some point cross. But it's the characters themselves that are the centre of this film, not the cheesy romantic plot of your average romcom. If you watch the film expecting that, and I hope you do give it a go, you should be pleasantly surprised. If, however, you just want a typical guy-meets-girl romcom, move on: this one isn't for you.

by Marie Lu
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hunger Games watch out - this is Legendary!, 24 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Legend (Paperback)
15-year-old Day has lived on the streets since he took the compulsory test known as The Trial (where every child's value to society is tested) and failed. He should have died then, but somehow he escaped and has been fending for himself on the streets of Los Angeles ever since. But Day has so much more to care about than where his next meal will come from and avoiding the police: for the Republic of America's most notorious criminal, life is one rebellious act after another. The world Day inhabits is in the future, a bleak future where the United States has been divided into two - East and West, or the Colonies and the Republic. The Republic is responsible for the death of Day's father as well as for Day's living conditions, and Day will do whatever it takes to bring the government down. His only friend is Tess, a girl he found wandering the streets and who quickly became his best friend. But Day's world, and his plans for the Republic, come crashing down around him the day he sees a three-lined cross on his mother's door which can only mean one thing: either his mother or one of his brothers has caught the plague.

Meanwhile, June, also 15, is the Republic's Prodigy. Ever since scoring perfectly on her Trial, she has gone from strength to strength in the eyes of the Republic and is set for an important career in the military, just like her older brother Metias. But then Day, in his efforts to procure a cure for the plague, kills her brother and June becomes more determined than ever to find Day and arrest him. But while Day is consumed with anger and a burning hatred for the Republic that comes with being poor and downtrodden, wealthy June has a naive innocence concerning the Republic and it is this that will ultimately land both her and Day in more trouble than either bargained for.

This is a thrilling dystopian tale which fans of Hunger Games and also Veronica Roth's Divergent will adore. This is without a doubt the next big thing, the next Young Adult series we've all been waiting for. Lu writes beautifully and she brings Day, June, Tess, Metias, and all the other characters to life. The first person perspectives of Day and June are refreshing and enlightening; these are two people who begin the story believing they are chalk and cheese, but when they bury beneath the lies of the Republic and discover the person beneath, June's inner master criminal is unearthed while Day's inner prodigy is discovered. They couldn't be more alike if they tried.

I admit, I loved Day the most. I love handsome YA heroes and Day doesn't disappoint. He will go to the ends of the earth to help those he loves, and his bravery and desire to change the world making him all the more loveable. He's rough around the edges, because of course he lives on the streets, but this too is appealing.

But it is June that the plot hangs on because it is June's naivity that brings trouble and tragedy to Day's life, and it is June that it is left with the difficult decision that will change lives forever: does she side with Day, this charming young man who has opened her eyes to the way of the world, or the Republic, the state she was brought up to honour and respect above all else?

There are plenty of mysteries to discover in this book, plenty of plot points you'll be dying to try to work out. After all, this is the Republic of America and secrets and lies are their speciality. You know those books that are so good you're desperate to finish it and find out what happens, but at the same time you desperately DON'T want to finish it because then it's all over? Legend is one of those books. I don't understand why Legend isn't bigger than it is: Legend deserves to be Hunger Games big. But when I was trying to find Prodigy (the sequel) on the high street, I couldn't find it anywhere, which was very disappointing. Believe me when I tell you, though, you will not forget Legend. This is a book to remember.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 8, 2014 12:20 AM BST

Shadows on the Moon
Shadows on the Moon
by Zoe Marriott
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Cinderella story Disney would never tell, 24 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Shadows on the Moon (Paperback)
A big lover of fairy tales, I picked up Shadows of the Moon the moment I saw the word 'Cinderella'. But what I found instead was this dark, Oriental, riches-to-rags-to-riches tale with a storyline you might describe as Disney meets Dickens.

Set in a fantasy realm that draws many characteristics from ancient Japan and China, this very loose re-telling of Cinderella tells the tale of a girl called Suzume whose life is changed dramatically when soldiers come to her home and kill her father and cousin. If this were a Disney movie, Suzume would subsequently wish for a prince to come and take her away to a new life. But this is not Disney and while she DOES get a new life, with her mother and the man who later becomes her (evil) step-father, she dreams not of a prince but of revenge. She swears one day someone will pay for what happened to her family. The lengths Suzume will go to to find her revenge is seemingly unending and while this may make her seem like a stronger heroine than the traditional Cinderella, it is also disconcerting to see how far it consumes her and how low she would stoop. While it is often traditional in fairy tales for justice to find the villain in the end, I didn't like watching a character enforce this so ardently and with so little remorse.

There is no shortage of fairy-tale elements here, though. No Cinderella story would be complete without a fairy godmother of sorts, and this is found in the character of Akira, a beautiful woman, once a Gijo, like a Geisha, who fell in love with the recently deceased Moon Prince, and who takes pity on Suzume, welcoming her into her home as her sister. It is Akira that ultimately helps Suzume find revenge, in the form of (of course) a Ball - the Shadow Ball, to be precise, where the Moon Prince chooses a girl to become his new Shadow Bride (the Moon Prince's concubine). And of course, where would we be without the handsome Prince! In this story the traditional handsome Prince is not the Prince at all, but a foreigner to the Moonlit Land where Suzume lives, strikingly different because of his dark skin. What I loved about Otieno was how he loved Suzume from the moment he saw her, even while she was merely a Kitchen drudge. While Suzume is craving revenge and lives with a Stepfather who would kill without a second thought, Otieno is peaceful and despises the taking of human life, and as such he is almost the antidote for Suzume's thirst for revenge and he shows her that there is another road to take.

There is one crucial part of this story, however, that you won't have seen in Cinderella - or any other book for that matter, and that's Shadow Weaving. This is the art to weave shadows around yourself like a cloak, to change your appearance. Suzume first learns that she can weave shadows in this way when she is running from the soldiers who have just killed her family, and it will become a very important aspect of the story. I loved the idea that Suzume could change the way people saw her, that she used it to 'steal' her cousin's smile after her death, a sweet innocent smile that keeps her out of danger.

But what I enjoyed more than anything else was how Suzume's life kept changing rapidly, making it almost like three different stories: You begin with the story of Suzume, a wealthy young woman who is scarred and fearful; you then move on to the story of Rin, a kitchen drudge that no one looks at twice; to Yue, the sister of the Shadow Bride who is beautiful and accomplished and well on her way to achieving the revenge she has always so desperately craved. The three stories which are so different yet weave together to become Suzume's life reminded me somehow of Dickens; it was almost like a Japanese fantasy version of David Copperfield or Oliver Twist. There is something deeply satisfying in watching a character grow and change so much that the life they lead at the end is so startlingly different from the one with which they began the story.

As you would expect with a book packed with so much action, this is a long book and it took me a while to warm to it because it was so different from any other YA I'd ever read. But soon I was immersed in a completely new world and learning about fascinating cultures I know next to nothing about. This book is so filled with a uniquely dark fantasy and contains such an array of interesting characters that I can't say I minded the length of the book. If you like fantasy and you enjoy reading Young Adult fiction, pick up Shadows on the Moon for a journey so original and so surprising you'll find yourself demanding a sequel!

My Life with the Saints
My Life with the Saints
by James Martin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.50

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The saints of yesterday, for today, 9 Dec. 2012
'My Life with the Saints' is a book for anyone seeking inspiration from the saints. Rather than a dry, heavy re-telling of the lives of saints, full of pious details that most modern readers will struggle to relate to, Fr James Martin SJ instead provides us with a beautiful and personal anthology of the saints.

This is no ordinary book about saints. 'My Life with the Saints', as the title implies, describes the life of Fr Martin and how he came to meet various saints. By writing about the saints in the order that he came to know them, you can't help but feel as though you are taking a journey with Martin, living his life with him, and thus discovering these saints with him. The way the lives of the saints are interwoven with anecdotes and relevant tales from Martin's own life serves to reveal the impact the lives of the saints can have on someone. The saints should, after all, be our inspiration and yet often they feel unfamiliar, so holy and living a life so different from our own that it can be hard to relate them to our modern lives. And yet Martin somehow makes them modern again. As a Jesuit priest, he has many diverse experiences to draw from and therefore manages to set an example of how we can discover the saints in the most unlikely of places and at the most surprising times.

Martin tells the lives of the saints like a good story: he gives you characters so fleshy you feel like you know them, situations so real that you can find yourself relating to them, and enough details to make you interested. The way he writes is almost as though he's talking to a friend, and he will have you wanting to cry in sympathy at times and laughing out loud at others.

The great thing about Martin's way of looking at the saints is that it shows you how YOU can be a saint. The way he describes their lives, with their various blessings and troubles, they could easily have lived in the 21st century (if you change a few key details of course!) and in that way he makes them more real. By making the saints real, it finally makes being one yourself seem achievable. He also makes it abundantly clear that by becoming a saint, we are not called to be Mother Teresa, or St Francis, or Dorothy Day, or countless other saints. We are called only to be ourselves. This, I think, is the real treasure of this book.

My favourite part, however, wasn't how much I learned about the saints, or realising that becoming a saint doesn't mean changing my personality. The best bit of this book for me was the inclusion of the real stories from real people. These are people Martin met, people whose stories intertwined with his around the time he discovered a particular saint, and somehow it was these people that inspired me the most. There were the women prisoners who spoke for hours in Spanish about Our Lady, not because she was the mother of God or conceived without sin or any of the other amazing things about her - it was Mary, the woman, a real person they as women and mothers could relate to. There were the refugees he met in East Africa who worked hard to become businesswomen and sell items to tourists, turning their lives around by using their God-given talents. There was the community of nuns he met also whilst in East Africa who served Christ by finding employment in all the menial jobs that no one else wanted and evangelising to those who worked with them. And how I could forget the Brother who worked with gangs in Chicago, standing in the middle of gun fights to stop the gangs from fighting. These people, these very real people who find God in whatever circumstance they happen to find themselves in, these are the saints that inspired me the most. These are the living saints, people who have already been inspired by the saints of heaven to follow God completely. These were the people who made the book even more fantastic and memorable.

I can't describe how grateful I am for this book. All I can say is this: Read it. Whether you're drawn to the saints or to the holy men and women of today, you'll find something in there that will truly inspire you.

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