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Mrs. S. Payne (UK)
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Divergent (Divergent Trilogy, Book 1)
Divergent (Divergent Trilogy, Book 1)
Price: 3.33

4.0 out of 5 stars Don't compare it with The Hunger Games, just enjoy it for what it is, 15 Sep 2014
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I had this book on my Kindle for some time but I recently saw the film trailer on TV and it reminded me to read the book, so I did. I had no great expectations with this book, I had heard it compared to The Hunger Games (which I loved) and I figured it had to be pretty good for someone to bother making it into a film, so I started the book with a completely open mind.

The story starts in a dystopia Chicago where people have divided into five factions after a devastating war to keep the peace. These five factions are Amity (The Peaceful), Dauntless (The Brave), Abnegation (The Selfless), Erudite (The Intelligent) and Candour (The Honest). Children are born into a faction with their parents but must choose their final faction in their 16th year or they will be factionless, poor people who walk aimlessly relying on other faction members for hand-outs. We follow Beatrice, soon to be christened Tris, who changes factions, swapping from selfless Abnegation to the dangerous but brave Dauntless as she embarks on this new journey through a very politically-charged battlefield.

I loved the concept and idea behind this book and I also enjoyed the style of writing. The story is told from Tris’ point of view and we observe her observations and feeling with her. I felt that the characters we very well written and easy to follow and like. The writing style is simple but this is expected with a YA book. I found myself drawn into the story and I really cared about the outcome. I felt that the last part of the book seemed a bit rushed after a period of nothing mush happening but it didn’t detract from the enjoyment for me. I will continue to read the rest of the series.


The Queen Of The Tearling
The Queen Of The Tearling
Price: 4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Can't wait for the next instalment!, 2 Sep 2014
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Unlike others here, I didn’t have any huge expectations with this book. It came to my attention as it was on a few of the ‘booky’ emails that I receive, and generally, if a book appears on more than one of those, it should be a good one to try. I went onto Amazon and read the ‘look inside’ on the website and I was instantly drawn in. It was purchased and on my Kindle a few seconds later and as soon as I finished the book I was reading, I started on The Queen of Tearling.

The story follows Kelsea a young girl just turning 19, heir to the Tearling throne. Kelsea has been raised in a small house in the middle of nowhere in complete isolation by her foster parents. She has been allowed to read many books and has been educated but kept ignorant about a lot of the recent history and politics of the kingdom. Although Kelsea is intelligent, she is a bit naive as she has large gaps in her knowledge especially around herself, her family and her history.

On her 19th birthday, Kelsea is collected from her foster parents by her new Guard to rule and they travel her to her new kingdom, Tearling. Along the journey, they come across difficult situations as many people wish Kelsea dead for many reasons. Kelsea must win loyalty from her Guard and try to turn a corrupt and decaying kingdom into something good and strong for her people. Kelsea begins to piece together the gaps in her knowledge about her history and she learns more about the Red Queen, the Queen of a neighbouring kingdom, who is taking advantage of the weak state that Tearling has been in since they have had no queen (just a corrupt Uncle).

All of that sounded pretty straight-forward until we hear of the Red Queen, an apparently immortal queen, and learn about the jewelled necklace that Kelsea was left by her parents that heats up and glows according to Kelsea’s mood. We begin to get a hint of magic. The time setting is interesting as it’s hard to place exactly. Technology has risen and fallen again and the book is a bit vague on some details, they seem to have had some more modern technologies and medicine but they were ‘lost’ and there are gaps in their knowledge and the facilities to produce these again.

Although this is yet another story of a young heroine coming out of hiding to claim her place and set her Kingdom right again, I found that there were enough unique aspects to still find the whole storyline interesting. The characters are strong, interesting and varied and the storyline (although a tad predictable) was not repetitive and kept me hooked. I read this book in no time at all and I am very excited to get my hands on book two (and three!). I may also check out the film produced by and staring Emma Watson.


Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Price: 6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back to his best, 28 Aug 2014
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I should start by saving that Murakami is one of my all-time favourite authors and I expect that this fact will not allow me to see his books quite as independently as others, so maybe my reviews of his work should be taken with a pinch of salt. 

This story follows Tsukuru Tazaki. As a teenager, Tazaki was abandoned by his four closest friends for a reason unknown to him. We are now with Tazaki as, sixteen years later; his current girlfriend Sara sets him off on a journey back into his past to discover that reason for the abandonment.

As always with Murakami, I loved the flow of the story and the characters involved. The worlds shown to us are quite simple but given in a lot of detail. The visual images that Murakami presents to the reader are strong and there are thought-provoking discussions raised. I think Murakami’s work would make a great book group read. Like others, I did prefer this to IQ84, as this feels more focussed and back to his original writing style. I also agree with others that the ending felt slightly unfinished but this didn’t mean that I enjoyed the book any less. I think this is a strong read and fans of Murakami’s original earlier work will not be left disappointed by this latest piece.


Roots
Roots
by Alex Haley
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and tragic at the same time, 26 Aug 2014
This review is from: Roots (Paperback)
I first heard of Roots during a conversation with my Dad about the newly released film ’12 Years a Slave’. My Dad said that it sounded similar to an old TV series that he watched called Roots. I had forgotten all about that conversation until I was in an old bookstore in Bali and I spotted Roots on the shelves, right at eye-level. It was a new copy with really nice ‘parchment-like’ edges and I figured it was fate telling me to purchase it, so I did.

As I’m sure most people know, Roots is a account of the life of Kunta Kinte, a young African boy, who is captured and shipped to the US to work as a slave. We follow Kunta right from his birth in 1750, in a village called Juffire in Gambia in the West of Africa, through to adulthood. Kunta is captures as a teenager and shipped to and sold in the State of Virginia. He tries to run away from his first master four times but with no place to go his is re-caught and eventually sold to a new master. Kunta eventually accepts his fate and the book goes on to detail his working life with his new master and his life moving forward.

As you would expect, at times the book is shocking and has many graphic accounts of the maltreatment and suffering endured by those taken as slaves. The section of the book that covers the crossing across the Atlantic is very hard to stomach but gripping. The book is a long book (as we cover Kunta’s whole life) but I was gripped and could not put it down. The images are haunting and the descriptions are very real. I liked that the language changed as you discovered new characters as they learnt new languages. I felt that this added to the richness of the book and I didn’t have any trouble understanding them.

The book is based on the real ancestral history traced back seven generations to the Gambia by Alex Hayley and the worst part of the whole book is that you know that this is based on this truth; this really happened, and happened to many, many people over many, many generations.

Once I started reading this, this was a book that I was thinking about the whole time I wasn’t reading it and I am still thinking about it now, even after I have finished it. I feel that this is a brilliant account of the times and tragedy of that situation.


Larger Than Life
Larger Than Life
Price: 1.49

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic teaser..., 12 Aug 2014
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This review is from: Larger Than Life (Kindle Edition)
I am a HUGE Jodi Picoult fan, I can't wait for her next book, Leaving Time, and I was really excited when I read that there was Larger Than Life, a short story prequel to Leaving Time.

In Larger Than Life we follow naturalist, Alice Metcalf, (although not the main character in Leaving Time, she is a key one) as she works in Botswana, where she comes across an elephant calf that has survived the massacre of her herd by poachers. Alice’s decision on what to do with the calf could jeopardise her whole career.

The story feels incredibly well researched and I learnt a lot about elephants, even in this short story. It feels like a Picoult book and she sticks to her fantastic style of writing, as well as making the story thought provoking and funny with amazing characters. I can’t wait for Leaving Time to be released and I was really pleased to see that my Kindle download of Larger Than Life also included the first chapter of Leaving Time.


The Circle
The Circle
Price: 3.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Not fantastically written but a great concept and thought-provoking read, 11 Aug 2014
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This review is from: The Circle (Kindle Edition)
I heard about this book a while ago and thought it sounded interesting, so I popped it on my Kindle to read and then promptly forgot about it. I then spotted the book in a bookshop at an airport and it reminded me that I meant to read it, so I started to read it on the flight and was instantly hooked.

We follow Mae Holland as she starts work in the futuristic offices of The Circle, in San Francisco, and the story is told to us through her eyes. The Circle is a company like no other. The most similar thing I can think of to compare it is Google meets Facebook meets Twitter. The description of The Circle's headquarters made me think that it sounds like the Google Headquarters, an idealistic environment where the technology is state of the art, the buildings are amazing and no expense had been spared. (I have never worked for Google, so I have no idea if this is actually what their HQ is like, but you hear that it is!) The offices have every amenity an employee could want; free food, free drink, free clothes, free accommodation and free stuff in general. This means that there is really no reason to ever leave. There is a HUGE emphasis on community, fun and participation and Mae soon discovers that being a ‘Circler’ is not just a job; it is a way of life. In return for all the free stuff, Circlers are expected to be completely open and transparent about every thought that pops into their heads; to respond to random data-collecting surveys; to go to parties; and to join networks.

I found myself completely drawn into the storyline and characters. As you can imagine, there are some interesting people that Mae meets along the way, Annie (Mae’s friend from school that got her the job at the Circle), Kalden, (a man who randomly pops out of the office shadows to plant seeds of doubt into Mae's mind and to seduce her), Francis (who has an issue with premature ejaculation) and Bailey (one of the Founders of the Circle).

As others have stated, the ending is obvious and there is a scene with Mae’s ex-boyfriend that is a bit pathetic really but, putting that aside, I felt that the book raised some really interesting issues. I don’t know if the aim of Dave Eggers was to scare us all but it seems like that’s what he has done. This book makes you take a step back from your internet use and think about what this kind of development actually means for us all.

The result is an absorbing and enjoyable novel which has pertinent things to say about our increasingly connected world. I am a big user of social networks, emails and Skype to keep in touch with my friends and family and I love that these means make the distance between us smaller but it does make me think that there are limits, and that privacy is something we need to hold on to in this ever changing, ever connected world.


The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike Book 2)
The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike Book 2)
Price: 6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A great follow-up, 7 Aug 2014
I really enjoyed The Cuckoo’s Calling, was eagerly awaiting the next in the series ‘The Silkworm’ and was hoping not to be disappointed.

The Silkworm picks up eight months after the Landry case and now that Strike received a bit of fame from that case, he is inundated with rich clients wanting his help. Leonora Quine, the wife of slightly well-known author, Owen Quine, wants her missing husband found. Comoran takes on the case and quickly finds himself in and amongst London’s literary circle. Quine’s manuscript; a libellous book in which he viciously attacks almost everyone he’s ever worked with, is causing quite a stir and Comoran is convinced that his disappearance is related to this.

I found the storyline interesting and, I feel, that JK Rowling’s biggest strength is her character development. The characters in this book are well thought out and this shines through mostly with Cormoran’s relationship with his assistant Robin. I like that there are a lot of character details and I particularly like all the pieces about Strike’s past at Oxford, him being a rock star’s son and his past relationship with his ex-fiancé Charlotte. I felt that JK Rowling had also done a lot of research around Strike’s disability and the problems it could cause him in his everyday life.

Other reviews have said that they felt that the storyline and plot was a bit ‘clunky’ and not dramatic and fast-faced enough. I actually quite liked the slower pace of the book and enjoyed this one more than the first book. I am looking forward to the next instalment.


Look Behind You
Look Behind You
Price: 2.99

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad but not the best, 24 July 2014
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This review is from: Look Behind You (Kindle Edition)
I have read ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Before I Go to Sleep’ and this book was being compared to those, which I liked, so I thought I’d give it a go.

Look behind you is a psychological thriller that keeps you turning the pages till the very end. The book starts with Chloe, a teacher, who at the start of the novel is trapped, bound and gagged in a chamber. Chloe manages to escape, is found by a passer-by and is taken to hospital. Unfortunately for Chloe, no one believes that she was kidnapped and they blame her ‘memory’ of the incident on hallucinations caused by a bad reaction to a prescribed drug she was taking. We follow Chloe through the rest of the story as she tries to explain what happened to her as she re-traces her moves before the kidnap and as parts of her memory start to return.

Although I liked the storyline and concept of this book, I felt that is wasn’t as strong as ‘Before I Go to Sleep’ and I found myself not really liking Chloe all that much. I was disappointed with the ending as I felt that it was far too predictable and that the author chose the easy resolution. I did enjoy some parts for the book and read it quite quickly but overall I was left a little disappointed. I think you would like this book if you hadn’t read other higher quality psychological thrillers.


A Woman's Choice
A Woman's Choice
Price: 2.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A good debut story and worth a read if you like this genre, 24 July 2014
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This review is from: A Woman's Choice (Kindle Edition)
Although I love historical fiction, I would never have picked this book up as I tend to prefer history surrounding the English kings and queens of past, particularly Philippa Gregory’s books. I came across this book as the author was offering free copies in exchange for an honest review, so I thought I’d try it out.

The story follows Clara Foley from 1901, when she is 12 years old and boarding a ship at Liverpool, with her mother Jenny to start a new life in America. Clara’s father has recently died and due to the increasing fragile state of her mother, the pair decide to strive for a new life in America. Although only 12 years old, Clara has a wise head and taking control of the situation and showing her strength of character means that she encounters some memorable people on board the ship that will have a huge impact on her future life in America. Clara is determined to make something of her life and give herself and her mother a better standard of living. She loves to sing and the story follows her as she strives to make a living doing what she loves.

As I said, this wasn’t a book that I would ordinarily considered reading. There was a high level of detail in the book particularly regarding the sweatshop conditions and some of the different people and characters found in New York, which I enjoyed. I feel that the book was very well written but I did find it a bit slow in some places. I usually whiz through my books quite quickly and this one took me a bit longer than normal, I was more reluctant to read it as it didn’t ‘grab’ me as much as other books and the pace seemed to lose speed half-way through. Notwithstanding that, I did like the book and I enjoyed the story and characters. I love books that span a big chunk of time and this story follows Clara for 18 years, so we really feel that we get to know her and her friends. Overall, I did enjoy this book, even though it was out of my normal reading genre and I wouldn’t ordinarily have considered it. It’s a good debut story and well worth a read if you like this genre.


The Color War (Kindle Single)
The Color War (Kindle Single)
Price: 1.81

4.0 out of 5 stars I love the way that Jodi Picoult writes and fans of ..., 23 July 2014
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This is an engaging short story of a young boy and his experience through life so far. I love the way that Jodi Picoult writes and fans of hers will now be disappointed with this. The only real negative is that it is only a short story and I would have loved it to be a full one.


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