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A. L. Rutter "Floor to Ceiling Books" (Portsmouth, UK)
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We Are Family
We Are Family
by Josie Lloyd
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.22

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Good, 23 Dec 2011
This review is from: We Are Family (Paperback)
I read We Are Family for some light-hearted escapism, but instead found myself engrossed by a story that flits back and forth between present day and a village in the 1950s. Overall, the story is about the secrets that families keep, the skeletons in the closet, but the way that the two Rees draw out the mysteries is very fresh and engaging. I loved the characters - and I think I found myself longing to get back to the tale from the 1950s more than that in present-day Majorca (although both strands of the tale were very entertaining).

The characters were very strong, and I believe that both female and male are strong because we have a dual-sex writing team. It makes for realistic motives and reasoning from all the characters, which helps to engage the reader.

The ending was a little too neat for my liking, but that doesn't detract from what was an exceptionally compelling read.


Cuckoo
Cuckoo
Price: 5.21

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Too bothered by minutiae, 23 Dec 2011
This review is from: Cuckoo (Kindle Edition)
I've heard that Cuckoo by Julia Crouch is a novel originally written during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month - held in November, where people aim to write 50,000 words in the month) and it reads as such even now. Novels written at such speed often involve the author padding our the story with descriptions of rooms, clothes, dreams in order to increase wordcount, because there isn't quite enough story to sustain it.

Crouch manages to create some tension, but I found myself tired of the situation long before the end of the book. I didn't like any of the characters involved. Rose is a doormat, way too eager in ingratiate herself with everyone. Polly is a junkie ex-starlet who is unbelievably selfish and manipulative. Gareth is weak-willed and I can't believe the way he treats his wife, Rose. There was not one moment where I felt as though I wanted to know more about these characters.

The pacing is very slow, but Crouch tends to go through every single event in the manner of a child's diary: Rose gets up, Rose feeds baby, Rose puts out breakfast for elder child, Rose thinks about Polly, Rose wonders about Gareth. Everything is so internal, and overly-descriptive, and, criminally, boring. I didn't enjoy it at all.


Troy High
Troy High
by Shana Norris
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 7.82

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Light-hearted romp, 23 Dec 2011
This review is from: Troy High (Hardcover)
Troy High is a retelling of Homer's Illiad for teens, presenting the situation as rivalry between the Trojan and Spartan schools as opposed to all-out warfare. Cassie and Greg are our main protagonists - best friends (possibly more?) but finding themselves on opposing sides.

The 'war' is changed to pranks between the two schools and their football teams, as well as some bitching from the cheerleaders on each side. This part of the novel is funny and frivolous (and I'm glad Norris chose to steer clear of true violence).

I found the novel to be a clever and witty read, but rather superficial. All of the characters apart from Cassie and Greg seemed to be quite one dimensional. It was a light-hearted romp, but without any depth at all.


Matched
Matched
by Ally Condie
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More dystopian YA, 23 Dec 2011
This review is from: Matched (Paperback)
Part of the problem when coming to Matched was one of my own making and individual to me - I'd been reading a lot of YA and a lot of dystopian YA at that, so Matched didn't feel so much unique as retreading familiar ground. Girl growing up in a controlling society, who begins to doubt the rules and starts to flout them, with ominous consequences. We've seen this a lot now, since the Hunger Games presented the idea originally.

Matched does succeed in its worldbuilding, where other dystopian futures can feel very contrived (I'm thinking about the Factions in Divergent). Here we have a society which is so controlling that it is determined to 'match' citizens i.e. use their genes, personalities, and a number of other factors to present them with the perfect person they should marry. We join Cassia as she discovers that her perfect match is, most unusually, her childhood friend Xander. However, when she examines the information she is given on Xander (to see if it matches what she thinks of him) she sees another face - that of the boy Ky, who came late into the society.

I found the love triangle very difficult, in all honesty, because Ky is presented (at least to me) as being so much more attractive and yearned after than Xander. Despite her fondness for Xander, I never actually believe that she would want to be with him. Ky was the only obvious choice. At that point a love triangle is distinctly redundant.

The other aspect of Matched that I wasn't sure about was the slow, dreamy pacing. There was not much get up and go about the novel. I liked the way we drifted from situation to situation without the frenetic pacing of some of the other YA dystopian novels on the market, but it went almost too far the other way.

I find myself unconvinced by Matched, but I will certainly try Crossed to see whether the trilogy improves.


The Perfect Couple
The Perfect Couple
by Robyn Sisman
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 23 Dec 2011
This review is from: The Perfect Couple (Paperback)
I read and loved Sisman's Perfect Strangers - it was a really great read about people who did a whole life swap and ended up finding true happiness (sort of like The Holiday in book form), so I was excited to see a new book by Sisman, but found myself ultimately disappointed.

To be honest, the plot felt way too slight for a novel of this length. I'm half-convinced that Sisman originally wrote a novella and was asked to extend it to a novel wordcount. In a nutshell, Kate and Rikki have had two years of wedded bliss, focusing on their careers and not needing to spend all their time together. Then both find themselves working on the same court case - but on opposing sides. Their wedded bliss is shaken to the core.

I think I might have liked this novel better if I had liked either Kate or Rikki, but I found both to be selfish and uncommunicative. Why, if their marriage was so strong and perfect, did they not talk to one another? Why did they let a court case and their opinions of their clients get in the way? It felt so contrived and just didn't entertain in any way.


Under the Dome
Under the Dome
by Stephen King
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.09

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good and bad in equal measure, 23 Dec 2011
This review is from: Under the Dome (Paperback)
This was my very first Stephen King book, since I was given to understand that it was a decent example of his writing.

I very much liked the ease with which King developed his characters and wrote his dialogue. It felt so very natural. What King achieved in just half a page would have taken a lesser storyteller many pages to craft, and I greatly appreciated this element to the writing.

I also loved the way that the town fell into chaos - the dark happenings, the murder, the rape, the looting. The events were foul to read about in the most part (showing that King often has people as his monsters), but so gripping. I found myself wondering to what depths people could go while they were trapped within the Dome.

What I didn't love was the kooky premise of a Dome trapping an entire town that is explained away by aliens (and not just aliens, but by kiddie aliens). I thought it would be something way more interesting than this and therefore felt distinctly let down by the ending. I had just spent over 800 pages trying to work out what might be the cause - I think even some government conspiracy would have sat easier. It can be compared to the equally kooky ending to the Watchman graphic novel (which they sensibly changed for the film). Also, concerning the Dome, I did find myself thinking about the Simpsons Movie *cringes*

Also, considering that it was such a large novel, it felt very light on plot. I mean, I did adore the massive cast of characters and I liked following them all during the course of the crisis, but the actual plot was limited - it felt like King was doing more of a case study on human behaviour than writing a truly gripping novel.

What is great is that, on the whole, I enjoyed my first foray into King and I am looking forward to picking up much more from his massive back catalogue.


City of Bones (Mortal Instruments): 1
City of Bones (Mortal Instruments): 1
by Cassandra Clare
Edition: Paperback
Price: 3.85

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Why the love for this book?, 23 Dec 2011
Be warned - there are spoilers within...

City of Bones is one whole ball of cliche. Now cliche can be done quite well - either throw in a curveball to a cliched situation, or write the cliche so damn well that no one cares. Clare did neither. This was plain bald cliche written badly. We have here a girl who learns she has a secret past, a guy who is her best mate and is in love with her, a sexy secret forbidden guy - can anyone say Buffy? This reads like rather absurd Buffy fanfic, where Buffy actually learns that Angel is her secret brother.

The plot lurches from one random set piece to another, which kept the pages turning, but left the reader rather wondering what was going on.

There was truly awful quippage in some of fight scenes - when no human being should be able to draw breath, let alone come up with witty repartee...

I honestly can't see how people have found these some of the best YA on the market. I found City of Bones poor and terribly derivative. Not really worth the time.


Divergent (Divergent, Book 1)
Divergent (Divergent, Book 1)
by Veronica Roth
Edition: Paperback

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to love, 23 Dec 2011
I saw the mass of reviews gushing about how brilliant Divergent was and I just had to read it. On closing the last page, I feel a sense of being let down by the story, and by elements of the worldbuilding.

Initially, I absolutely loved the idea of the five Factions and the fact that everyone had to choose one (sometimes going against their families, in a form of betrayal). Over the course of the novel, I found myself distracted by the idea that surely more people than Tris would be Divergent (i.e. able to fit into more than just one Faction). I mean, I love books and reading, but I have a motorbike licence - surely that would put me in both Dauntless and Erudite? And there was my sticking point. People are never selfless all the time. People are never brave and dauntless all the time. I kind of hope that in future novels Roth will bring it to a point where the Factions are abandoned as forcing people into something that they can never hope to stick to.

I really loved all the Tests when Tris joins Dauntless and her growing relationship with Four is so well done. He is a really intriguing character, and I just adored every scene that he and Tris share.

I did find the novel pretty stark and violent - this is definitely not a YA novel for a younger reader!

For me, the pacing in the novel was one of the weakest parts. I was not completely gripped until Tris joined Dauntless, then the novel raced along quite happily, then the denouement (which should be the thrilling climax) left me feeling a little underwhelmed.

This is a very competent debut novel, and I will most certainly be along for the ride in Insurgent, but it wouldn't feature in my best of 2011 lists.


Rosebush
Rosebush
by Michele Jaffe
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.51

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hit and miss, 23 Dec 2011
This review is from: Rosebush (Paperback)
Rosebush was a seriously compelling read. I started it over the course of one evening, and felt aggrieved at having to put it down to go to sleep. I then spent the next day picking it up every chance I had. I just HAD to know what was going to happen, and which of Jane's friends was responsible for what happened to her.

Jane's voice is very strong - written in the first person - and means that the reader ends up living every nightmare that Jane suffers. Her descent into doubting herself and possible madness is chilling and kept me absolutely gripped.

The whole "rich gal with secrets" thing has been done before on TV, but it was the first YA novel I'd read with that sort of theme, and it lends itself well to the short snappy chapters that Jaffe used to construct her novel. I also liked the flashbacks and the confusion that left me guessing all the way to the end who would turn out to be the would-be killer.

I felt a little strange at the fact that Jane was snogging three different guys during the time that she was in hospital - it went against the way that I "felt" she should act. I would have preferred to see just David and Pete as the guys that Jane feels drawn towards - Scott is a strange addition to the story.

This definitely has more depth than a lot of the YA that I've read, and has a deliciously dark edge. I would warn against starting this when you have other things that need to be done, because you won't be able to put it down. Enjoyable, and psychologically scary.


Shiver
Shiver
by Maggie Stiefvater
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.67

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blown away!, 23 Dec 2011
This review is from: Shiver (Paperback)
I went through a stint of reading YA before reaching Shiver by Maggie Steifvater, and found myself approaching this novel with slightly jaded eyes. I didn't think that it could be anything that special. How wrong I was. How very wrong. Shiver is such a special book - such an ephemeral and haunting book. I simply could not look away from the page as I discovered the tale of Grace and Sam.

I know that people have had issues with the romance element of this story - the fact that they are instantly in love - but I found that this gave Shiver a truly tragic Romeo and Juliet quality. I thought that this was employed very intentionally by Stiefvater to increase the longing and intensity within the pages.

The ending was a little ludicrous. The more I think about it, the more deus ex machina it feels. I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't yet read Shiver, so I won't say anymore, but it was the most disappointing part of the book.

Apart from that, Shiver was a genuine five star read for me - and unexpectedly so. Stiefvater didn't do a whole lot that was new (although I did love the concept of werewolves changing based on the temperature, rather than the lunar cycle), but the manner in which she presented this book was simply beautiful. The language was stunning and has stayed with me. I find myself contemplating this novel, even a month or so after initially reading it. Just wonderful.


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