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@Scattered_Laura "@ Scattered Figments" (NEATH, United Kingdom)

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Ashes (The First Book in the Ashes Trilogy)
Ashes (The First Book in the Ashes Trilogy)
by Ilsa J. Bick
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.74

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome, 24 May 2012
Ashes was a book that provided plenty of the darkness and grit that its title suggested. When an EMP causes all electronics to faulter and also interferes with the teeny tiny electrical pulses in the brains of humans, a whole heap of...stuff...hits the fan! Only the very young and very old survive intact, save for a few exceptions such as Alex, the protagonist. Others survive, but as maddened inhumane creatures, similar to the "sickos" in Charlie Higson's "The Enemy" series, or the raging "infected" in "28 Days Later".

The idea of the masses succumbing to a force that leaves them insane and blood thirsty is not new. The dystopian premise of technology falling down around our ears is not new either. So what about this book made me love it as much as I did? It was a combination of things really. I loved Alex as the protagonist. She goes to the mountains to bury her past and to admit that, due to a brain tumor, she has no future. Instead it is her tumor and the treatments she's had for it that saves her from the EMP and allows her to begin her story. These are things you find out in the first pages so I don't think I'm spoiling anything for you.

I loved the was Bick toyed with my expectations of the lovey dovey part of the story. I was expecting that to be straight forward and predictable, but she caught me off-guard! I could go into a ramble about this aspect of the story, but then I would be spoiling things! I'll simply say that I expect the sequel to leave me reeling.

Mostly, I loved the crumbling world Alex found herself in after the EMP. It reminded me of Prentisstown in the Patrick Ness novels. Haunting, patriarchal and oh-so-very insane! I'm thoroughly looking forward to the sequel to this (already on my Goodreads Wishlist) and finding out how Bick tortures her protagonist further.

This is a must-read for fans of dystopia.

by Stephen King
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another masterpiece from my hero!, 24 May 2012
This review is from: 11.22.63 (Hardcover)
King's expertise makes you wish that the story would never end. I'm familiar with his style and still he manages to keep me on the edge of my seat.

Although I predicted much of the narrative, those unaccustomed to King's "take-no-prisoners" approach to telling a tale might not. Even if you're the sort of person who can always predict the last scene of the movie, so to speak, there's a lot more to this book than a beginning, middle and end. King's characters were vivid and so realistically composed that it felt like they could up and walk right out of the pages. Some of them, like the infamous Lee Harvey Oswald, were drawn from life so perhaps that was to be expected. Others, however, such as the first-person protagonist, Jake, were equally real to me.

As a life-long inhabitant of Wales, my knowledge of the Kennedy assassination was pretty much limited to a video I was shown in History in year nine. Oh, and I think I saw a documentary on The Discovery Channel once. I'm now in danger of mistaking King's fictionalised history for reality, but still, I feel like I learned a lot from 11/22/63! Sure, I learned about some key dates and figures in American history, but more importantly I learned something about writing. King, in pretty much all of his works, teaches prospective writers that there's one key thing you have to do to your protagonists in order to make them someone readers want to read about. You have to torture them.

You have to throw hurdle after hurdle in their path and sometimes they have to stumble at them. But then, scraped knees and all, they've gotta keep an running. Sucks for them, eh?

My love for King is obdurate (book-related joke...), so he gets five stars from me!

Daughter of Smoke and Bone: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy Book 1
Daughter of Smoke and Bone: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy Book 1
by Laini Taylor
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtakingly awesome!, 24 May 2012
This book was astonishingly good. The prose was colourful, imaginative and sophisticated. There were moments when I found my brain chewing over a dazzlingly brilliant metaphor or simile that just left me reeling in a post-literary glow. I don't even care how dodgy that sounds.

I am in love not only with Taylor (who has very pink hair, by the way), but with her wonderful protagonist, the tattooed, blue-haired Karou. She was a girl who lived between worlds and who knew just how to sharpen the pointy-end of a witty one liner. I am in love with all of Taylor's characters. Akiva (a swoon-worthy Seraph) was a fairly typical male interest who was rather predictable. Nonetheless, he was a literary hottie. Karou's best buddy, a tiny Czech girl by the name of Zusana kept me giggling throughout.

The characters were beautifully drawn, the setting made me want to hop on the next plane to Prague and Taylor's writing made me want to drown myself in her words. I don't want to write too much about the plot here as I wouldn't want to give the game away. I will, however, say that the structure of Taylor's narrative was, if not a breath of fresh air, then a good old spritz of Fabreeze to the somewhat stale and tattily-woven fabric of some YA reads.

Scary Mary (The Scary Mary Series Book 1)
Scary Mary (The Scary Mary Series Book 1)
Price: £0.00

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A decent little freebie, 24 May 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I have to say, I wasn't exactly feeling super encouraged by the blurb. The mention of "jocks" and "cheerleaders" had me grimacing. It made the book sound like what far too many people expect YA to be: formulaic, fake and full of school-yard niches which don't often exist in the real world.

My worries about the book weren't exactly proven groundless. Many of the characters were typically two dimensional. "Cheerleader" Vicky was about as deep as a puddle. The "BFF" had so much impact on the story that I've completely forgotten her name. Cyrus, the "Hot New Guy" was too nice to evoke any realistic empathy. However, Mary wasn't half bad. She was a gothic-dressing, black-lipstick-wearing, clairaudient "freak". That in itself isn't exactly original, but there were aspects to her character which I got along with. My favourite thing about her was her ghostly pet dog called Chowder!

The story itself was by-the numbers, but not in a really bad way. It was nice to have some bubblegum for my eyes to chew on. There were some nice, unpredictable elements thrown in along the way, too. I liked that Mary could only hear ghosts, but not see them. I loved the idea of haunted items (especially the haunted desk in then guidance counsellor's office) and the ending wasn't what I'd dreaded.

Overall, if you're looking for a read that you can swallow whole in an hour after a busy, bookless couple of weeks, then Scary Mary might be for you. It's not great literature by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a nice little story with some nifty little quirks mixed in.

No Title Available

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This book kicks butt!, 24 May 2012
I've always been a fan of both superhero movies and mythology. Happily, these two things come together brilliantly in Karsten Knight's Wildefire.

I was dubious about this one to begin with for a few reasons: I had read a few mixed reviews about the book; I wasn't a fan of the cover; I thought the little short extract on the back cover was a little cheesy.

Ash is one of the most kick-ass female protagonists I've read about in a long while. Maybe ever! She started the book in a fight and kept up her "take no prisoners" attitude for the whole 400 pages. I loved her! She had attitude and witty one-liners and a strong mind. I loved her toughness.

I hated her sister. She was the kind of antagonist who really made you want to tear at the pages of the book in order to get to her... Eve was selfish and spiteful and petty and narrow-minded. She was also a brilliant bad-guy. She wasn't the antagonist because she was a a mean but popular school-yard bitch. She was an honest-to-goodness maniac of mythological proportions!

Recently, there's been a lot of talk about YA being a bit unfriendly as far as the male audience is concerned. I can imagine Wildefire appealing to plenty of guys out there though. First of all, Karsten Knight is a man (I know! I was surprised too... figured "Karsten" was just one of those odd spellings...). Secondly, although the protagonist is female, she's a kick-ass female reminiscent of Underworld or Tomb Raider.

While I was reading this book, I remember thinking it was like a mixture of X Men and a whole bunch of ancient myths. I loved this book and can't wait for the second! I was genuinely gutted to have to post this one to the winner!

by Cat Clarke
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this author!, 24 May 2012
This review is from: Torn (Paperback)
Cat Clarke is really good at creating flawed characters. I don't just mean the trivial flaws that are often prevalent in YA, (you know what I mean: "My hair is too frizzy...", "My boobs are too small", "I'm a social outcast..."). No no no. Clarke goes for the big flaws which are far more real. She creates characters who act in all the wrong and improper ways when faced with drama and calamity. They fu...dge up. They don't just mess up because it's good for the story, or because it adds necessary conflict. Her characters mess up in all the ways that real people mess up. We chicken out. We swear and get horny. We act selfishly. We hurt people to console ourselves. We bitch. We get jealous. We lie.

We do all of these things and yet whenever we read a story, don't we see ourselves as the hero? Despite all our own flaws, we all want to be the one to save the Nakatomi Towers, or defeat the Alien, or take on the Terminators. Clarke gives us protagonists who sometimes do bad things but who also want their "Yippy-ki-yay-Get-away-from-her-you-bitch-Come-with-me-if-you-want-to-live" moment. This, to me, is real and it therefore makes me really care about and empathise with her characters.

Which is great. Except Cat Clarke likes her realistic narratives so much that sometimes she has to go and put her characters in painful and impossible situations. She hurts them and, through her razor sharp prose, cuts us too! Deeply.

So darn you, Cat Clarke! You've made me cry for the second time, and for that I kind of want to throttle you and beg you to take it easy on your poor protagonists. At the same time, you've made damn sure that I will go out and buy every single book you ever write, because you're bloody terrific! Ours is to be a love-hate relationship, I think! He he he.

The Summer I Lost It
The Summer I Lost It
by Natalie Kath
Edition: Library Binding

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A nice, inspirational read., 24 May 2012
This is a difficult one to review because, athough I enjoyed it and found it inspiring, I wonder if it's for everyone. I suppose there is a part of me which questioned whether the lucky slim girls of the world would really care to read this. The weight-obsessed (like me) would like it though. I found I could identify with Kat. She has body issues that I think a lot of YAs and women could identify with. She never feels pretty, her weight is slowly becoming her life, she feels that in being a few lbs overweight she is therefore some kind of failure. Kat inspired me. She takes her health and lifestyle into her own hands and transforms her life through willpower and effort.

The book is well written in the first-person epistolary form, which allowed empathy for the main character to be created. The book is very short, which meant that there wasn't really much room for many plot twists or subtext. Still, I felt that this was never meant to be a narrative-driven text. At 112 pages, The Summer I Lost It reads more like an inspiring self-help text than a YA fiction.

When I read the synopsis, I wasn't sure how I felt about a YA book which was about weightloss. I worried that it might put too much emphasis on being "skinny" in order to "get the guy". This book wasn't like that at all. Kat isn't interested in being skinny; she wants to be healthy and to feel better about herself. She wants to know that she is in control of her eating habits and not the other way around.

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

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 24 May 2012
Divergent is a brilliant book!

The first person protagonist, Tris, is a conflicted character. She doesn't quite fit in to any of the five factions of society and is instead labelled as "Divergent": a dangerous thing to be. She feels that she doesn't quite live up to anyone's expectations, least of all those of her selfless family. Divergent is largely a book about a girl trying to find out where she belongs and how she fits in in a world where society is divided.

There is political struggle, indoctrination, and the idea that a uniform mass can be controlled if they aren't allowed the freedom to think outside the box in which they have been contained.

Another aspect of the book which I loved was the romance between Tris and Four. Theirs is a relationship based on equality and mutual admiration. They both have their weaknesses but they find solidarity in allowing their strengths (which would not be seen as admirable in their faction) to shine in each other's company. There is fire between these two characters, but the story doesn't get bogged down in their relationship. If it did, I might not have liked it as much because that would have been too predictable.

Reading this book will make you wonder where your own strengths lie, and it will make you want to be brave, kind, selfless, smart and honest in equal measures. It will make you want to be divergent.

... will also make you want to jump out of a moving train just for the sheer thrill of it! However, while that joy remain's out of reach for most of us, the much safer thrill of reading this book is within arms reach.

by Kirsty McKay
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars REVIEW: "Undead" by Kirsty McKay, 24 May 2012
This review is from: Undead (Paperback)
McKay's story is told from the first person perspective of Bobby, a sarcastic teenage girl who has recently moved back to the UK from America. She's not exactly thrilled to be back, and is even less thrilled to have been sent on a school skiing trip to Scotland. Bobby is the typical outsider. She doesn't know anyone on the school bus and assumes that even if the did know them, she probably wouldn't like them anyway.

Well, she doesn't really get to give them a chance. Revelling in her otherness, Bobby stays on the bus with the driver and the class miscreant, Smitty. That's when the proverbial hits the fan!

The rest of the plot I'll let you enjoy for yourself. Don't go expecting anything wildly original, but do expect a thoroughly enjoyable yarn with great pace, funny dialogue and gory action.

The characters of the book were at once hilarious and irritating! I liked Bobby immediately. I've always liked to think that if the world were to come to an end, or if I should ever have to save the Nakatomi Towers in a vest, or if I had to face down the zombie hoards, I'd be able to do it with an entire repertoire of witty one-liners and yippee-ki-yays! McKay's Undead is full of "...a kind of dark, nervy humour. When the apocalypse happens, you've gotta have some comic relief." (Taken from an interview with McKay, found on her website. Take a look, she's funny!)

Don't get me wrong, there are a few occassions when the one-liners are jarringly at odds with the grim reality of the characters' plight. At first this bothered me, but I soon got used to Bobby's coping mechanisms. I loved the way she and Smitty - the love interest you kind of want to kiss and to kick - bounced witticisms back and forth while facing down the undead!

Every old zombie flick has to have the vapid blonde who was more concerned with keeping her nails clean than she was about lending a hand to save the day. In McKay's book, that role goes to Alice. Oh, you're going to want to choke her with her Candy Couture handbag...

Then there's Pete. Pale, stinky Pete who plays the role of pasty-faced geek with a need to be right. While you're strangling Alice, you'll be silently reminding yourself to save some energy for Pete...

So the characters don't evoke sympathy, but they'll crack you up. More than that, you'll recognise them. You'll cheer for Bobby and Smitty. You'll roll your eyes at Alice and Pete pretty much every time they take a breath. You'll grimace at some of the gore. You'll never drink vegetable juice again...

This is definitely one for older teenagers as there are a few violent scenes, a creeping and constantly deepening sense of peril, along with some mild language. But then I like that in a YA book, when it's necessary. When a zombie is stumbling towards you, salivating and dead-eyed, nothing kills the mood (or the realism) more than when someone says "Oh bother..." It's patronising. McKay keeps it real, showing respect for the purpose of language and also for her readers. A fantastic début!

Delirium (Delirium Trilogy 1): 1/3
Delirium (Delirium Trilogy 1): 1/3
by Lauren Oliver
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great idea!, 24 May 2012
I absolutely love the idea of love as a disease because I think we've all been there, haven't we? We've all had someone get under our skin and fester there feverishly like some kind of viral invader. We've all felt breathless, got a case of clammy hands and cotton-mouth. We've all had trouble sleeping, felt the lethargy, had trouble eating or focusing all because of that crazy li'l thing called love. So love as a disease? Yeah, I can buy that.

What bothered me about the book (and it's a teeny niggle because overall I liked it) was the lack of real control that the society really had over its subjects. It uses lies and fear as any Big Brother should, but there was only minor evidence that they were anything more than just a menacing bogeyman used to keep the kids in line. I found that Lena and Alex (the boy she falls in love with) got away with far too much in a society which had supposedly battened down the hatches in order to guard against the big bad wolf which is love.

Those of you who read my review of Oliver's first novel, Before I Fall, (read it here) will know that I had a problem with the protagonist of that book. Well, the same goes for Lena in Delirium. Once again I began the book despising the voice of the story. She was weak, frightened, controlled and kind of a pain in the ass! But Oliver makes you sympathise with Lena, just as she made you warm to Sam in Before I Fall. If the personal, emotional journey that characters go on is the most important part of a tale, then Oliver is damned good at spinning a yarn. In both of her books now, the character you begin the book hating, grows up, changes and learns from the conflicts thrown at them. You may not grow to love them, but you certainly grow to admire them, to sympathise with them and to cheer them on. And I like that. It's far more realistic than the overly-admirable characters of too many YA books.

Overall, Delirium is a book which justifies the current trend for dystopian fiction. It is the first part of a trilogy and. as such, ends on a painful cliffhanger which left me feeling desperate for the next installment.

I recommend this read. It is gripping and absolutely beautifully written. Oliver's writing is almost breathtaking at times and the sophistication of her prose says a lot for how much she respects her young audience.

Now to sit back, chew unattractively on my fingernails and wait for book two...

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