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Sarah R (UK)

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Boring Girls
Boring Girls
by Sara Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

4.0 out of 5 stars A slow burner, but fascinating narrator makes it worthwhile, 11 May 2015
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This review is from: Boring Girls (Paperback)
Boring Girls came to my attention in the latter half of last year as the writer Sara Taylor happens to be the lead singer of my favourite band; The Birthday Massacre. This is her debut novel, inspired by her personal experiences and struggles of being a woman in the music industry. Lyrically, The Birthday Massacre has always been a mixture of thought provoking, disturbing and whimsical so I was interested to see how that would translate into a full book.

The book follows a young girl named Rachel, who has always felt like an outcast with her family and in school. That is until one day after an episode of bullying she discovers Death Metal and finds an outlet for her creativity. Not long after she meets a kindred spirit, Fern, who opens up her into the world of music when the pair decide to form their own band due to a lack of females in their favourite genre. As the pair create heavy tunes and begin to get attention from others in the industry, the dark underbelly of their world begins to unravel.

It's important to be aware that this book is very slow; we follow Rachael just as she about to start High School, including the daily school routines, she her meet Fern, form a band and all the way until late teens/early twenty (not specified in book) when the band start to make it big time and it all comes crashing down into a bloodly finish. The opening chapter opens up on a very dark note, Rachael being very frank about her crimes and creaking the door open into her disturbing psyche before rewinding back to where it all began. This isn't a book full of twists and turns on every page, so those lacking the patience may want to pass on this book.

That's not to say that nothing worthwhile happens until the end however. Sara Taylor's voice is very distinct and does a fantastic job with Rachel's character, building it up so subtly and hauntingly with every chapter. The major event that sends her and Fern into a spiral happens half way through but she doesn't just snap and perform a character 180 then and there. From the first page there's lot of little snippets of foreshadowing that Rachel isn't your average girl. The way she's fascinated by the gory side of life, how she reacts to certain situations that are considered abnormal, and then rationalize all her actions with ease. Then there are situations where she glides through her parent's conversation by imitating what they want to see and hear with terrifyingly perfect precision. It's these little sentences here and there that form the core of her character and make her a fascinating read, even if in the real world there's not much going on.

When it comes to Fern it's a shame we don't get to hear from her point of view, because her progression could be just a fascinating as Rachel's. However in the novel, apart from near the beginning, the `event' midway and towards the end, she seems to get lost in the background. The blurb on the book seems to suggest a very deep connection between the two, but that seems to simmer down after the band first form and then not brought back until towards the climax.

There are a couple of chapters that are similar and short so could've been merged together, and admittedly the ending is quite abrupt, but overall this is a well written, slow burning dark trip of a book. It won't be for everyone but whether you're a fan of her work in the band or not, it's worth a read. If Sara Taylor decided to continuing writing books after this, I wouldn't hesitate to check them out.

Bloodlines: The Ruby Circle (book 6)
Bloodlines: The Ruby Circle (book 6)
by Richelle Mead
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Mad Dash to the Ending, 14 Feb. 2015
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The Ruby Circle is the last book of the Bloodlines series, and (as of Feb 2015) the book that concludes the Vampire Academy series, with no more spin-offs or sequels. I've loved the journey that the series has taken me with these characters, and Richelle Mead's world building has been brilliant with her fantastic writing. Sadly, despite Bloodlines being arguably a better series than Vampire Academy overall, the ending is not as strong.

The Ruby Circle takes place one month after Silver Shadows with the newly wed pair living at court, hiding from both their races who see their union as wrong. However with Jill still missing and with no leads, both are desperate to leave and search for her. Their first clue in her whereabouts finally arrives in the hands of Sydney’s tutor, Mrs Terwilliger.

The first warning bells went off when I first received the book; it's a lot thinner than the last Vampire Academy book and the last 2 books of Bloodlines, being only 348 pages despite being a grand journey like 'Last Sacrifice' was. The characters travel all over the place, hiding from the Alchemists and such, all to find Jill. There’s also many other plot threads stringing along and great character developments but because this book is shorter than the others and pacing is on a constant fast forward, none of it has breathing space. I wish it was longer to allow the bigger moment feel epic and the smaller moments to be more heart warming, but instead it all feels a tad rushed. There are also many twists in the mix; unfortunately unlike Mead’s other books, most of the twists are easy to spot from a few chapters away. Mead is usually really good at throwing readers off and keeping them on the edge of their seats but The Rudy Circle is not the strongest example of that. The one plot point which I didn’t predict is unfortunately not handled very well, I won’t spoil for you but it means I can’t explain in great detail why it doesn’t work. To keep it as vague as possible: a new discovery of Spirit is made but is not foreshadowed at all and comes across as poorly slapped in to create the wholesome ending. To make it work, Mead writes in some questionable rushed decisions and stereotypical actions made by certain characters that are normally written better, all to create a picture perfect ending, almost too perfect.

The book, like the last two, alternate between Sydney and Adrian, but the jump between the characters wasn't always necessary. In the last 2 books the characters were separated a lot, and had their own issues to deal with, on top of having unique voices. In The Ruby Circle however the pair were together for a lot of the time and share the same view on multiple instances, so I found myself forgetting whose point of view I was reading for a good chuck of the book. It would've been stronger if Adrian's struggle against spirit was highlighted more (like in Silver Shadows) to really bring out his voice more. Speaking of Adrian; we had two chapters back to back from his view, with the next chapter written as 'Adrian...Again', like Mead realised she's written herself into a corner and had to stick with him to get out of it. That would've been fine if Sydney got two chapters to compensate, but she doesn't, and what I personally found weird was that the very last chapter (down as an epilogue) is from Adrian's point of view. The whole series is about Sydney's journey from recluse, ignorant Alchemist to powerful, confident witch and yet she does not get the last word on her story. Don't get me wrong, I do love Adrian, and we’ve known him much longer but it did seem really weird to not have Sydney conclude the series. In turn a few plot threads that are connected directly to her (mostly her family and witchcraft) are mostly left unsaid and/or unresolved.

This is coming across as quite negative but only because the series was doing so well up till this point. As endings go it could’ve been a lot worst, but it also could’ve been far better. If the book was longer to allow for more natural development, or if Sydney got more of a say in the ending it would’ve been a lot more acceptable. Overall Bloodlines is still a brilliant series, a highly enjoyable journey and I will miss the characters. Even if the ending wasn’t perfect, I look forward to seeing what Richelle Mead plans to do next, even if it’s outside the Vampire Academy world.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 30, 2015 10:31 AM BST

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The long wait has been worth it, 1 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: Superstition (Audio CD)
This has been a busy year for the Canadian band The Birthday Massacre; on February 5th they announced their new album would be partly funded by the crowd-funding website PledgeMusic in cooperation with their label. When it launched on February 7th, it reached the goal in less than 24 hours. After many tour date announcements and album teasers, November saw the release of the music video for `Beyond' as well as the full album `Superstition'.

Musically, this album is closest to their roots such as `Nothing and Nowhere' and `Violet' with heavier emphasis on keyboard work and Chibi's voice blending with it. Lyrically it's a continuance of their previous album `Hide and Seek', very dark and ethereal, something that obviously the band wanted to get off their chest. In an interview with, Chibi said; "There were a few deaths in my sphere, so I sort of started looking at the whole concept of how do you take comfort in things, almost in a spiritual sort of way."

The themes of what lies beyond death is strongest in `Beyond', in terms of music it sounds your typical Birthday Massacre mid-tempo track but the sorrow in Chibi's voice at the chorus really shines through. The lyrics paint a picture of regret for not being able to see `beyond the ordinary' like we can see as children. It took me a few listens to fully appreciate this song but it really is a stunning song and paints the picture of the whole album wonderfully.

The album's title track explores religion from a person of faith with thought provoking lyrics and evolving music building to a stunning climax really create a chilling but fascinating track, one of Birthday Massacre's finest and the track I've replayed the most so far. The album opener 'Divide' is practically swimming in imagery, apparently the band took inspiration from Norse mythology for it. It's very different from previous album openers as it's not as hard hitting as `In the Dark' nor is it gentle like their last album's `Leaving Tonight', it's somewhere in the middle.

The opener and 4th track 'Destroyer' contain Chibi's trademark growling vocals. They're not as prominent as previous albums but 'Destroyer' is one of the album's standouts, as the lyrics get more twisted so do the keyboards. Being the rockiest on the album, it will certainly be a crowd pleaser at gigs alongside `Blue' and `Happy Birthday'.

'Surrender' has a very breathy vocal from Chibi, something she doesn't do very often, but her matured voice sells an intensely creepy protagonist of the song. The build up at the bridge towards the end with incredibly dark music afterwards sounds quite different to what they've done before. Then you have `Rain', which sounds quite similar to `Queen of Hearts' and `Under the Stairs' from their Imagica days. Keyboards take the centre stage and Chibi using her chest voice alongside a devilish harmony to bring through a very atmospheric track. The same goes for `The Other Side', evolving lyrics and heavy guitars that tie their newer and older sounds together, leading into a purely instrumental `Trinity' to close a new chapter for the band. A welcome listen as its been a while since they made an instrumental, and its a first for an album closer.

At only 10 tracks, like their last album, you'd think it wouldn't be enough to satisfy the hardcore fan considering there were no EP between releases like the last few albums have done in the past. However `Superstition' is notably longer than `Hide and Seek' and a lot more satisfying on repeat listens. `Hide and Seek' was by no means a bad album but it was very short. `Superstition' pulls you into it's atmosphere, and even if you're not sold on a song straight away, it's the music and the odd lyric here and there that will keep you pulled into it's magic for repeat listens. Not every track is winner, but with every listen there's more to love. No Birthday Massacre fan should miss picking up this album, and hopefully we'll get to see them perform the songs live in 2015.

Vampire Academy [DVD] [2014]
Vampire Academy [DVD] [2014]
Dvd ~ Zoey Deutch
Price: £4.69

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bad pacing ruins a good premise, 30 Aug. 2014
This review is from: Vampire Academy [DVD] [2014] (DVD)
Vampire Academy is based upon a young adult series that I happen to be a fan of, I re-read the series before the film was suppose to come to UK cinemas earlier this year, which sadly never did as it performed poorly at the US box office. Despite bad reviews, I was eager to form my own opinion, now the DVD is out I can safely say that...this really should have been a TV series.

Let's start from the beginning; Lissa is a Moroi (mortal vampire) who also happens to be the last member of her royal family bloodline. Her best friend is Rose, a dhampir (half human half vampire) who is trained alongside her kind to protect the Moroi from Strigoi (evil undead vampires). Before the film begins, Rose and Lissa ran away from their boarding school for fear of Lissa's life in danger, but when the Academy catches up with them they're dragged back to school, where their enemy secretly awaits them.

One of the things I liked was the handle of Rose; upon re-reading the books I realised that Rose's claim of being a skilled fighter is too tell and not much show, at least until the end of book 2. However the film makes her a lot more active, she takes down a few opponents in the opening fight with a motorcycle diversion which works nicely to set up her capabilities. There are other examples which I won't spoil but I feel that the movie showed her character very well and made her a more balanced partner to Dimitri.

The actors are all proficient too; it's great they actually got a Russian actor (Danila Kozlovsky) to play Dimitri, who sells the character fantastically - graceful, deadly, and wears the duster perfectly. Zoey Deutch is Rose, there's no doubt about that, it looks like she had fun in her role too. She shares great chemistry with Lucy Fry who I was afraid to see in the role as the several clips I saw beforehand, I struggled to hear what she said, but actually she was fine as Lissa. Some of the side actors (such as Sami Gayle) were a little wooden but nothing too cringe worthy.

Cosmic things such as the look of the school and the costumes are nicely done, the Academy looks so big and full of life, with a few titbits here and there to set it apart from other boarding school settings. The music score is decent as well.

The original book had a few pacing issues; mostly that constant flashbacks broke up scenes unnaturally. Those scenes did help with character development and such but it did have a problem of taking you in and out of moments abruptly. This issue doesn't affect the film, however it has its own pacing issues; it's horribly fast. The scenes are edited so sharply that they have no time to breath and the tone jumps from one second to the next. One moment the characters fear for their life, the next they're laughing like they have not a care in the world.

This bleeds into the plot developments; in the original book a lot of mystery and plot twists were built up slowly, it was a struggle for Rose to find answers due to her need to not get into further trouble, whilst Lissa's continuous effort to fight against her own madness was gripping and I know a lot of teens identity with her as a result. But in the film the answers come to Rose very easily with little effort needed to progress, and Lissa's struggle with her power is so quickly resolved and then accepted as the norm towards the end that a lot of her character depth is lost as a result. I know in film things have to be handled differently, but because it's moving so fast it loses the audience in the meantime.

And that is what ultimately damages the film; as someone who's read the book, I can add emotion and character building into the film as I know what's going on. But for a non-book reader they only have the constant jumping to go on, and it's so erratic that the movie struggles under its own weight of character developing, scene setting and trying to be witty, but in the end it comes across as soulless. The right ingredients are there but aren't given enough time to cook before being rushed into the next plot point.

Vampire Academy has great potential, the books are not perfection but it is a good story and would've worked much better as a TV series to allow for the world building and plot twists to get the audience engaged. The little things the film does right are lost in the awful pacing and editing. It's easy to see why general audiences didn't warm up to it, why book fans were disappointed, and why it's unlikely to get a sequel. I'd recommend the books; only watch the film if you already read the book and are curious to see how it turns out.

Dexter - The Final Season [DVD]
Dexter - The Final Season [DVD]
Dvd ~ Michael C. Hall
Price: £9.95

6 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An unfortunate end, to a once great series., 30 Sept. 2013
When Dexter first premiered it was a striking, original drama; the protagonist was secretly a serial killer who lived a double life as a blood analyst for the police. It was something not seen regularly on television back when the pilot wowed audiences. During the production of its final season there have been premieres of other serial killer led series hoping to take Dexter's crown, such as Bates Motel and Hannibal. Little do they know that the crown is already ripe for the taking, as season 8 is Dexter's most disappointing season of all.

Whilst Dexter is continuing life as normal in Miami, Deb is self-destructing after killing LaGuerta in the previous season, wanting nothing more to do with her brother and seems to be on the edge of telling the world about Dexter's dark secret. At the same time a new face arrives by the name of Dr Vogel, who shortly reveals that she is the one who helped Harry create `the code' that Dexter lives by. She specializes in psychopaths and believes Dexter to be `perfect', which is why she needs his help in killing an unknown psychopath who seems to be out to destroy her.

Let me start with the positive; the first 4 episodes are very strong, and the ideas peppered in them seemed to start off on the right foot for a grand finale. Dr Vogul (played by Charlotte Rampling) is handled well for most part; it makes sense that Dexter's father would turn to a psychiatrist for support with Dexter's condition so her part in the code doesn't feel too shoehorned in. Plus her nurturing of Dexter's dark passenger whilst everyone else is against it makes a nice contrast. Jennifer Carpenter gives fantastic performances as Deb and the speech she gives in the opening episode about her and Dexter being `lost' is the best piece of writing in this season. Her actions and emotional turmoil keeps you on the edge of your seat for the first 4 episodes.

Sadly after episode 4 it steadily declines in writing and plotting; Dr Vogul is given nothing noteworthy to do apart from being a gateway for the final, and ultimately bland, antagonist. The brain surgeon's character and motivation seems to alter to whatever the writers need him to be, either inject conflict for Dexter or kill any character the plot deems fit. Insultingly, Deb's trauma is too conveniently resolved, giving her character development a complete 180 in the most inappropriate of circumstances. Considering all the build up in the previous season and in all the trailers for this season, it seems they were drumming up Deb to be the one to finally reveal Dexter's true character to the world once and for all, but instead she's pushed aside for other matters that are nowhere near as well written or enjoyable. Then there's the return of Hannah McKay; I did like her in the previous season and her return in the cliffhanger of episode 6 is nicely done, then she's hastily drawn into the picture and given nothing to do outside of cooking dinner for Dexter and being an example of how to not hide yourself from the law.

The major downfall for the season as a whole was the unnecessary amount of time spent on introducing new characters that played no big part in the main story, or just adding new conflicts to the main cast that didn't matter in the end. All they accomplished was taking away focus on what the final season shouldn't been about; wrapping up the main story and creating emotional closure for the cast and audience. Example distractions include Vince finding out he has a daughter; all it accomplished was some awkward fatherly actions and hiring her at the lab so she can have no major input into any cases. Then there's a young man named Zach who becomes an `intern' of sorts for Dexter with Vogul's input, despite the interesting idea he again is treated poorly and written out before any true investment can be made. Another villain haphazardly put together is US Marshal Max; if any thought had been put into his character and arc he could've been a big threat but he's just there to point out various plot holes before exiting in an incredibly stupid scene. Then there's Quinn, who really gets the short end of the stick with a relationship with Jamie that is doomed from the start and a woman detective competing against him for the sergeant promotion, only to disappear with the promotion after episode 6 and leaving him looking like a fool.

There's plenty more little scenes or throwaway lines that lead to nothing in the end. For example there's too many instances when Quinn almost catches Dexter in the act or seems to be on the cusp of finding out; instead of building it up to a big reveal for the character, they are just moments of unintentional comic relief. Writing really takes a nose dive this season and it does little to hide itself when you have (for example) characters doing walking around with blood in their hands to have no one take notice. There's too much laziness all around to hide obvious errors that it gets distracting and at times laughable.

To top it all off, there's the finale; I won't spoil it for you but I will say this. I can see what they were trying to accomplish with Dexter's character for most part, and the tone of certain scenes (e.g. his final trip on Slice of Life) is suitably handled and can be seen as symbolic. However, the very final scene is too jarring against what had been building up. It's one of those endings that the more I thought about it, the more plot holes I uncovered and the more frustrated I became with it.

The final season of Dexter should've been just that; the final chance to wrap up the whole story, not conjuring new material that had to be wrapped up just as fast. Despite the promising start, the season does not hold up as a whole and the ending will be part of many heated conversations amongst Dexter fans for a long time. Season 4 was the series high point but unlike some fans I do not think season 5 - 7 were not a complete right off as they still took the cast into new ventures with solid character development. Season 8 however feels like a step backwards, the writer's couldn't decide what route to take Dexter; whether it be victorious, redemption, revenge, destruction or a set up for a (hinted at) spin off series. Instead it tries to hit all points, which results in something unfulfilling and disorienting. An unfortunate end, to a once great series.

The Indigo Spell
The Indigo Spell
by Richelle Mead
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down, 10 Feb. 2013
This review is from: The Indigo Spell (Paperback)
Sydney's world has been turned upside down; the Alchemists have been lying to her, the magic that she reluctantly wields seems to be growing each day and the Moroi vampire Adrian has proclaimed his love to her. With everything she'd been taught as `right' and `wrong' been completely flipped on its head, she turns her attention to Marcus Finch, a rebel ex-Alchemist that might be the key to the answers she's been seeking. But will her journey lead to salvation or re-education from the Alchemists?

Indigo Spell is the 3rd book in the Bloodlines series, which is a spin off from the Vampire Academy series. Unlike some spin off series where you often ache for another edition in the main series over the spin off, Richelle Mead has done a fantastic job of making Bloodlines stand on its own 2 feet, developing these fantastic characters whilst still containing clever cameos from the previous series, that there's no need to turn back. Indigo Spell is just another great book in the series that I just couldn't put down.

In some ways, Indigo Spell feels fairly different to the previous 2 books in the series. First of all; the series started as a repercussion of Rose's actions of the previous series, and sequential actions taken by bigger factions have been out of Sydney's control. In Indigo Spell however, Sydney takes control; at the start of the book she's dragged into big battles and Marcus' rebellion but by the end of the book she makes the choices she want to make and considering her strict upbringing, seeing her blossom into the woman she is now is incredible. She really grows so much in this book; anyone who's been unsure of her strict ways in earlier instalments will completely get on board with her in Indigo Spell. I've personally always loved her as a character but going on this journey with her is a great read from start till end.

Another element that's different from previous books is that, arguably, a fair amount of previous books have largely involved talking, setting up and character developing - reserving the action towards the 2nd half of the book. From the first page of Indigo Spell however, there's always something happening; first chapter - Sydney's dragged out of bed by Mrs Terwilliger and warned of a powerful evil witch coming, second chapter - Sydney takes a plane to a vampire wedding, and so on. There's so much going on in this book from the Alchemist's secrets to Marcus' rebellion group but the book never feels crowded or rushed. Sydney has a lot to deal with and balancing the different aspects of her life is handled brilliantly, she's also feeling the strain at times which makes her all the more human and relatable despite being in this huge and impossible world.

Let's take a closer look at the different plots of the book; a lot of other reviews have complimented all the hot scenes between Adrian and Sydney, and I will admit they I enjoyed reading them getting very intimate at times but some of my favourite scenes involved their (always) hilarious dialogue and just some great tender scenes where they're just hanging out. For example in one scene they play Monopoly, why? Why not?! They started off as friends, and despite their awkward and tension filled moments when Sydney's struggling with her deeper feelings, it's great to see their friendship still shining through, building their love in the most quirky but wonderful ways.
I also loved Sydney's continue development of her magic and having to help Mrs Terwilliger in the battle with an evil witch. The boundaries of the witch world are pushed even further here with some unusual spells that Sydney learns to protect herself, and then seeing it mixing with the world of the Alchemists and vampires made it all the more exciting that Richelle Mead can make the whole thing blend so effortlessly together. The build up and battle at the end is also very well done, I can't wait to see how much further she grows in the next book; she has a different kind of strength to Rose and that's why it feels so refreshing to read.
Then there's the Marcus subplot; from the cover and minor hints of the previous book, I thought that Marcus was going to be this mysterious figure that'll lead Sydney into his secret world and perhaps be a wedge between her and Adrian, but actually his role is rather different. His introduction is interesting and a lot of the information he reveals to Sydney is very fascinating (again expanding the huge world of Alchemists) but overall I found his scenes and his rebel group slightly underwhelming. Maybe it was because Sydney, our guide, was unsure of them through most of the book and we only meet a handful of the rebels. If that was Richelle Mead's intention then fine, but compared to the mammoth worlds and mythology of the Moroi, Strigoi, Alchemists, Keepers and witches, I felt that Marcus' rebellion group was much smaller and got lost in the other more pressing matters. I'm hoping we haven't seen the last of him and that his role expands in the next instalment as I think he has a lot of potential.

Sydney has changed so much since we first met her in Blood Promise, and her journey has been great so far. I couldn't put the book down and with the great twist at the end, the wait for the next book is going to be incredibly hard. If you've loved the Bloodlines series so far, don't hesitate to pick this up. If you have yet to take the plunge from Vampire Academy to Bloodlines, I highly recommend it, you won't regret it.

Days of Blood and Starlight: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy Book 2
Days of Blood and Starlight: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy Book 2
by Laini Taylor
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In some ways, its better than the first book, 4 Feb. 2013
With her past revealed and Akiva's secret destroying her world, Kaoru leaves her human life to re-join her chimaera kind and help them rebuild what little is left of her people as Brimstone's only successor. Thiago, her former executioner, is supposedly working along side her but can Kaoru ever fully return to her former life and make amends for her traitorous actions? Meanwhile, a broken hearted Akiva returns to his own angel folk, branded as a hero for bringing out the supposed end of chimaeras but his brother & sister know the truth behind his actions. With the consequences unfolding before them, can they hope to build a new world that Akiva and Kaoru once dreamed of?

The first book, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, was a good start to a new series; I loved the writing, the incredibly fascinating fantasy world of Chimaeras and Angels and their histories. I also loved Kaoru's own little human world, her character, the crushing finale and tragedy of her back-story. However the book wasn't without problems; I didn't have the problem with the twist on the 'Romeo & Juliet' story however the handle on Akiva's and Kaoru's developing feelings wasn't handled very well. It was too 'lower-end' young adult fiction for it's own good - developed too fast and conveniently, and it was only during the finale that the weak middle part of the book was redeemed with the reveal of Kaoru's past life. Days of Blood and Starlight however took what I loved most about the first book and took the story into a painful war-torn direction, and I loved every second of it.

The first in the trilogy was very emotionally driven; Madrigal and Akiva had their passionate & forbidden affair, with their hopes for a better future where destroyed with Madrigal's death. Then Akiva - driven by his broken heart & soul at the lost of her - destroys the chimera world, only to find her reincarnated in a new human form by pure change of fate. Days of Blood and Starlight however is more character driven; if the previous book was full of fantasy, magic, mystery, love and hoping for a better future, its sequel is the complete opposite. Its pain, sorrow, betrayal and going through consequences of one's actions. What Akiva did in the previous book isn't going to go away with the power of love; thousands have lost their lives and Kaoru's world has been completely turned upside down. She understandably now can't look at the man she once loved and feels driven to help her former clan but they're not going to welcome her back with open arms so easily because, from their point of view, her actions led to this manslaughter. The same goes for Akiva, it takes time for his brother & sister to regain their trust in him and eventually come to his way of thinking - to build a world without constant war. But it's easier said than done and the conclusion they come to in order to build the new world isn't going to come without the clashing of swords and lost lives.

Those who love romance and were hoping for more here will be disappointed; the scenes where Kaoru & Akiva are together are as angst as the rest of the book, no happy ending is currently in sight for them, however that's a good thing. If, after everything that's happened, Kaoru forgave Akiva within a few pages, it wouldn't feel real or like anything had been accomplished. Of course you want the characters to be happy but first there's so much character and emotional development to accomplish and battles to be fought. Instead we jump back and forth between Kaoru and Akiva in their own worlds, trying to make a bad situation better, even with all the obstacles in their way. Kaoru is trying to continue Brimstone's work to re-build the future for her people but is having doubts about Thiago as well as carrying her own guilt. The story grips you from the first page and keeps you all the way to the last, leaving you begging for the 3rd installment.

Laini Taylor's writing is still as beautiful as ever here; building the fantasy world perfectly as she goes, I also love the many twists in story she took in the final 1/4 of the book. Just as I was guessing where the plot was going and settling into a rhythm she completely changes it. Skillfully she switches POV with each chapter so just as something big is revealed for one character, she quickly changes to a completely different scene. I couldn't put it down as I was dying to know what happens next. The book isn't completely filled with grim events however; Zuzana and her boyfriend Mik pretty much steal every page they're in with their brilliant sense of humour and watching them interact with the fascinating world of angels and demons is brilliantly handled. Ziri is a nice addition to the cast as well; his introduction is very much like Akiva's - completely besotted by Kaoru from the get go - and you can predict what his role will be in Akiva's and Kaoru's relationship in the final book but you can't help but feel sorry for the poor guy and what he goes through in this story.

That's not to say the book is flawless however; there's many POVs in this book, mostly Kaoru and Akiva but there's also side characters that, at first, help paint the picture of a world torn by war, slavery and death, they also have minor connections to the main cast. However a few of them don't really go anywhere or seem to have their conclusions saved for the next book, which is a bit disappointing. Also, Akiva is still arguably a boring character; however his actions in the book and character interactions with his brother and sister make him a lot more interesting than the 'sensitive warrior' stereotype that he was in the previous book.

When I finished Daughter of Smoke and Bone I was interested in checking out the sequel but was happy to patiently wait for it. After finishing Days of Blood and Starlight however it left me dying to know when the 3rd book is out, frantically searching the net for a release date or any info I can find. If you liked the first book purely for the romance, then you'll most likely find the sequel a disappointment. However if you love fantasy worlds, following through an epic story filled with magic, interesting characters and great action - look no further.

Eternally Yours (Immortal Beloved Book Three)
Eternally Yours (Immortal Beloved Book Three)
by Cate Tiernan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fitting end to the series, 18 Jan. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
After the trauma Nastasya experienced at the end of Darkness Falls, she's now back at River's Edge and her path to rehabilitation, but her world has been shaken considerably. With the help of River and other members of River's Edge her powers are beginning to grow, her friendships are building and even her relationship with Reyn is becoming less strained each day. However as River's brothers start to arrive at the cottage and make it quite clear of their suspicions of Nastasya, something bigger and darker is at work across the world...

Eternally Yours is the 3rd and final book of the Immortal Beloved series and it's best described as a combination of books 1 & 2 - both positively and negatively. Nastasya's quick wit narration is thankfully back (which was sorely missed in Darkness Falls) and her journey of self-discovering is slow but nevertheless interesting. The world and history of Immortals, built upon the several flashbacks, is still very fascinating to read and really fleshes out Nastasya's character, digging deeper into where she came from and how she got to where she is now. We also get great character development from Reyn, who pretty much steals every page he's in thanks to the fantastic lines Cate Tiernan gives him and the great romantic development between him and Nastasya. Considering the romance between then in previous books was mostly shallow and lacking chemistry, the scenes in Eternally Yours really make up for it. Some of the side characters get some nice scenes too, Brynne especially, and it was nice to have the human characters Drey and Meriwether return.

The plot however is not without problems; there are some good ideas in here and the build up to the final battle is well done but little things drag it down and prevent it from being a great book. Although the psychological aspects of the book were interesting, pulling apart Nastasya's character to reveal why she does this and that, some of it however does repeat itself a little too much and she still has the problem of being very angsty. "I don't belong here", "my magic's too dark" etc are common lines and I got bored of reading them over and over again. Understandably, she is traumatised from previous events but after the angst overload in Darkness Falls I got really tired of it. Another problem carried over from the previous book is Cate Tiernan's recycled plot elements, for example 'witch fire' from the Sweep/Wicca series is quickly stuffed into a scene for one use later on then never gets brought up again. I couldn't help but roll my eyes at that, I really hope Cate Tiernan moves away from 'magic' in her future series as it's clear she can't help but re-visit old material and it's getting ridiculous now. I also had conflicting issues with the ending; a villain is brought in at the last minute, complete with rushed backstory, and then its gone just as quickly as it came. At least the last chapter ends the series sweetly, even if it's clichéd.

Overall Eternally Yours ended the series well; it wrapped up most of the story nicely with some material for a spin off if Cate wanted to expand it. The world of immortals was a really fascinating one and I'm glad I invested the time into it, even if the road was a bit bumpy with clichés and Cate Tiernan's bad habit of recycling her own material. If you've read the last 2 books there's no reason you should pass this.

Hide and Seek
Hide and Seek
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £15.58

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not their best, but by no means a terrible album, 1 Nov. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Hide and Seek (Audio CD)
This year has been a fantastic year for music; Julien-K released their long-awaited 2nd album, Celldweller's 9 years in the making album finally came out and now The Birthday Massacre are back with their 5th full-length album. According to several interviews, the album was described by the band as being lyrically `darker' than previous records. Chibi's fascination with unsolved murder mysteries played a part in the album's creation too. But is the music any good?

1. "Leaving Tonight"
Previous album openers have often had quite a build up that crashes to a heavy rock track, this one however is a very different kettle of fish. Chibi starts singing very soon into the song and the beat stays the same mid-tempo feel until the 2nd half. It's very reminiscing of their early work, and the constant use of 'I want to go home' rings the theme of the album nicely from the start. May not light any fires upon first listen but it grows on you with repeated listens.

2. "Down"
This was the first song the band released to the public so it's had more of a chance for repeated listens; so at the moment it's one of my favourite album tracks. It blasts the guitars early on but then slows down for the verseswhere Chibi sings so sweetly...until she growls all over the bridge. Yes her growling is back, it does sound very different from previous tracks she's growled on (because vocalist Chibi had developed polyps, so had to sing differently for the album) but it only adds to the brilliant track. The lyrics describe a relationship doomed from the start and every word used paints the picture perfectly.

3. "Play with Fire"
3rd track in and the music takes a much sinister tone, Chibi's uses a more breathy vocal here to heighten the tension and darkness of the song, I especially love towards the end when she whispers the 'fire' lyric. There aren't many lyrics here but it's the vocal delivery and keyboards that sell the deliciously dark track. It's quite different to what they've done before and it's one of my favourites on the album.

4. "Need"
Track 4 carries the sinister tone of the previous track but goes for a more rocky sound. As the title suggests the song is about an unrequited love that the singer just doesn't want to let go; although the lyrics are great I felt something was lacking in the music. It doesn't build up enough and never really reaches the climax I think the song needed, and although Chibi sells the desperation in the chorus I wanted there to be more backing vocals to sell her 'need'.

5. "Calling"
Track 5 reminds me of 'Science' or 'Shiver' in that it has a repetitive beat, almost dancing aspect to the song with very striking lyrics. The music is great, the chorus is catchy and the lyrics paint a picture as the song goes on. It does end rather abruptly but it's a still great track.

6. "Alibis"
Getting back to the dark side of the album, 'Alibis' is a slower track that maintains it's creepy atmosphere thanks to the keyboards. Chibi takes centre stage here; her whispery vocals during the verses switching to more authoritative tone during the chorus really works, and the lyrics are great too. This track will most likely get lost in the rest of their discography but it is a decent song.

7. "One Promise"
Guitars greet us at the very top of the track before Chibi takes on a more 'child-like' singing here, and with lyrics such as 'making sure the toys are put away' it works nicely. Admittedly it sounds quite similar to previous tracks such as `Midnight' and `Walking with Strangers' but my favourite part is the darker build up towards the end as it reminds me of their 'Violet' album immensely. I can see this track being popular during their upcoming gigs.

8. "In this Moment"
You're likely to be reminded of 'To Die For' here as rain drops/water sounds top and tail this track, but 'In the Moment' is not the same as 'To Die For' at all sadly. I love Chibi's beautiful vocals during the verses, and the lyrics paint a fairy tale picture that The Birthday Massacre excel at, however the song sort of loses its identity towards the chorus. Chibi still sounds great but the chorus is rather forgettable which is a shame. I hope this song grows on me more.

9. "Cover My Eyes"
The drum machine really sets the tone of this song apart from the rest of the album; Chibi's 'fascination with unsolved murder mysteries' obviously comes into play here and this is by far her strongest vocal performance on the album. From the ethereal vocals, the stunningly dark lyrics and the music being very restraint at the start, building up the mystery and tension as the song goes on without letting go or going over the top is all done perfectly. One of the best songs on the album and they have ever done.

10. "The Long Way Home"
On one hand this track is too short and sounds like an extension of the previous song. One the other hand the multi-layered vocals are very haunting and beautifully done that I can't help but be completely drawn into this song and feel sad when it suddenly cuts and ends the album.

There's no denying that there are some great highlight tracks here, and despite the struggles the band faced with recording this album it still sounds great, they should be very proud of themselves. However I do not feel as attached to this album like I have done with previous albums. With 'Violet', 'Walking with Strangers' and 'Pin and Needles' I immediately loved them upon first listen, even if I didn't loved every track, as a whole album body I completely feel for them hook, line and sinker. Although I have stated before their songs are 'growers', with 'Hide and Seek' I feel I need more listens and time before I can get fully on board with it. Also, 'Hide and Seek' is the shortest album in their discography so far, as a result the songs breeze by rather quickly. However they've released at least 1 album or single every year for the past 3 years so I can't really complain about the lack of material.

Birthday Massacre fans - grab this album, there's no doubt about that, you'll enjoy it. Are you new to the band? Don't buy this as a first purchase. Start at 'Violet' and check out their other albums before coming back here.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 4, 2012 6:51 PM GMT

Wish Upon A Blackstar
Wish Upon A Blackstar
Price: £14.27

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very much worth the wait, 19 July 2012
This review is from: Wish Upon A Blackstar (Audio CD)
9 years in the making, Celldweller's follow up to his practically perfect self-titled debut has by no means been a rushed or unwanted effort. Despite being released as mini digital chapters over the years, I didn't listen to any of the new tracks until it's physical release this year as I'd rather own a physical copy of albums and in full rather than drips and drabs. Was it worth the wait? YES! Is the one of the best albums of the year? Yeah I would say so. Is it better than it's debut? Personally, I think not quite, but it's still a very strong album.

In many ways the 'feel' and production of the album is very much like Klayton's debut, but instead of his self-titled album being introvert, sad and submissive Wish Upon a Blackstar is extrovert, aggressive and angry. The albums opens on 'The Arrival' leading into 'Unshakeable'; very dubstep heavy and great opening to the album that immediately lays down the attitude the albums is packed with. 'I Can't Wait' is very aggressive as well; upon first listening I wasn't keen on Klayton's "I CAN'T WAIT TO BE AROUND YOU" screaming in my ear but it's energy stays with you after the song ends. 'The Lucky One' is one I'm really look forward to hearing live if Klayton comes to the UK; it's crowd cheering chorus and comedic lyrics really get the adrenaline pumping. 'Louder than Words' is arguably the more radio friendly track of the album but it's brilliant music and melody makes it one of my favourites on the album. Then there's the completely sinister 'Gift for You'; the brilliant lyrics, Klayton's velvet voice and fantastically creepy tune all work perfectly together.

The slower side of the album is a great listen too; 'Memories of a Girl I Haven't Met' is barely over a minute long, which is such a shame as it's a beautiful tune with captivating lyrics. 'Against the Tide' isn't as strong of an album closer as 'Welcome to the End' from the debut but it's still a very moving track. 'It Makes No Difference Who We Are' really pulls all of the themes of the album together.

There's less interludes and more songs but a fair amount of the tracks have a slightly too long running time; fine for raves, clubs and/or gigs but at 16 tracks clocking in at nearly an hour and a half, it can seem a tad dragged out at times. 'Eon' looses my attention after a while, for example, at 6 and a half minutes. Lyrics can also be a mixed bag; I do love Klayton's sense of humour in 'The Lucky One' but his bridge "I tried to push straight through the suck..." is not the best written piece of work he's done, yet it's repeated far too many times during the climax of the track. Also rhyming 'Waiting' and 'Anticipating' is not exactly original is it?

Regardless of the minor faults, this album is still fantastic. If you're a fan of Celldweller or a lover of music in general (the album ranges from dubstep to industrial) then there's no reason not to pick it up.

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