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Sweet Venom
Sweet Venom
by Tera Lynn Childs
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sassy action adventure with mythological twist, 17 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Sweet Venom (Paperback)
I found Sweet Venom to be a fun and sassy read, and I loved the mythological twist of Greek-style monsters roaming the streets of San Francisco. The monsters were creepy, smelly and each very distinct. Tera Lynn Childs did a great job of recreating snarling beasts, and having been trained to send them back to their world, Gretchen was the perfect, feisty monster hunter. Straight away we were thrown into Gretchen's monster fighting life, giving the story instant pace and action. As Grace and Greer became involved in the foray later on, their attempts at sending the monsters back were a little clumsy and haphazard but it made the story feel more dangerous, as well as humorous.

The story is told from the points of view of three sisters: Grace, Gretchen and Greer. Each girl has a very distinct personality and narrative voice making it easy to distinguish whose POV you were reading. I loved Gretchen's fierce and tough attitude, and Grace's sweet and caring nature. Grace was a pushover but I could relate more easily to her, as she struggled to fit in at a new school. As she gained strength throughout the book I was there cheering her on. Greer, who enters the story much later on, was a bit of a snob who won't accept less than the best. She wasn't easy to like to start, but all of the sisters changed and learnt a little over the story and it made them all more admirable for it.

Lots of things started going wrong for Gretchen, with the plot taking unexpected twists and turns. Her mentor Ursula has disappeared and the rules that means only one monster can be in the human world at a time has changed. Straight away there is a sense of danger, and although Gretchen flounders a little, Grace sees everything in a positive life. There are plenty of questions that need answering and mysteries to solve. Although the story ends on a positive and hopeful note, there was little resolution to any of the plot questions, leaving a lot to be answered in the next books. Whilst I like to resolve some things at the end of every book, I'm still intrigued and excited to find out what happens next.

I think Sweet Venom would really suit a young teen, female audience who would be able to relate to one of the sisters in some way. There's also some subtle morals woven into the story too, about standing up for yourself, being yourself and looking out for family which might hit home more at this age.

Sweet Venom is a sassy action adventure with a fun mythological twist. Perfect for younger teens, this is a great start to the series.

Crusher (Finn Maguire)
Crusher (Finn Maguire)
by Niall Leonard
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Gritty crime thriller - the hero made it for me, 17 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Crusher (Finn Maguire) (Hardcover)
Crime isn't usually my genre of choice, and whilst I didn't necessarily like the violence in this story, the young protagonist Finn made the story for me.

Finn has had more than his fair share of bad luck and rough patches in his life, what with his mother leaving him and his dyslexia. He's had to help his dad pay the bills and fell into petty crime in the past. Now his father is dead and there is no-one to help or look out for him. I instantly liked his no bull attitude, and ability to pick himself up and carry on. He was absolutely determined, no matter what the cost, to find out who killed his dad. Even if it meant getting himself into a whole heap of trouble and giving the police a bit of smart-assed lip. Finn had no fear and it was his reckless behaviour and outspokenness that made the story. I did feel a little sorry for him, because his step-dad had been the best thing in his life and suddenly he had no-one. But Finn isn't really the kind of person you can feel sorry for. He doesn't mope around or want sympathy; he's a born survivor.

I was expecting the plot to be really fast paced and action packed, but to start it wasn't. Although the book spans roughly a week of Finn's life, in which his questions get him the wrong kind of attention, the plot didn't have much sense of urgency. It was only towards the end when Finn was in some serious and violent trouble that the action became nerve wracking and scarily intense. I did however find the mystery of who killed his father compelling. With so many suspects and different leads coming out of the woodwork, the 'whodunnit' element kept me reading as much as Finn's bravado and outlandish behaviour. I enjoyed the twists and changes from one subplot to another, although there were some rather convenient 'coincidences' that helped move the plot along. I didn't see the ending coming at all and enjoyed seeing where it ended up.

As you may or may not know, Niall Leonard is the other half of E.L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey. Although I'm not really fussed on who's who or the hype around a book, and even though Crusher isn't normally my kind of book, Leonard has made a very promising start as a writer and will be worth keeping an eye on.

Crusher is a gritty crime thriller with spells of violence and swearing; with a protagonist with no fear and a crime overload that had me seriously scared.

by Andy Mulligan
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Story of hope, 17 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Trash (Paperback)
Trash is written from the perspective of three young boys: Raphael, Gardo and Rat. They live in extreme poverty, trawling everyday through rubbish and collecting what can be used or sold from a huge dumpsite. Raphael's unabashed account of how they search through faeces looking for something of value instantly made me feel so sad. With the additional accounts from Father Julliard, Sister Olivia and Grace, it makes the story a truly believable account. But it also heartbreaking. How could a country's leaders allow its people and children to live in such squallor? Unfortunately it happens in many third world countries, and Andy Mulligan based the dumpsite on a visit to Manila, and it really brings home how other people live and survive in the world.

Life for the boys is pretty bleak until they discover this exciting and dangerous bag. At last there is some hope in their lives. But it brings so much danger with it. The plot twisted and turned as the boys risked everything on what they might find, and when Raphael was taken to the police station for some very questionable 'questioning', I was really scared for the little boy. But each of the boys surprises you in them determination to not give in. They are three little survivors.

Each of the boys had a distinct voice and character. Raphael was more innocent and childlike of the three, able to win anyone with his smile; Gardo was the protector, looking after Raphael; and Rat was a little enigma. Rat really caught my attention because he described himself as ugly with his broken teeth, got his name from living with rats, and had no family to look after him. And yet underneath the lost and ugly exterior, he was smart, tough and cunning. Despite all the odds against the boys, I really wanted them win out and triumph over the evil police and politicians.

There is an ongoing theme of morals in this book. Not only are the police corrupt and unafraid to kill, but politicians and leaders are bent, taking money from their own people who live in stark poverty. It made me so cross, and as I could see what was coming in the plot I couldn't help but smile. The actions and decisions of the boys, starting with keeping the bag to themselves, is also up for scrutiny. But honestly I don't think anyone would blame the boys of any wrong doing once they've seen how they live.

Trash is a heartbreaking and hopeful account of three friends that find a miracle in amongst the rubbish.

The Demon Trappers: Forsaken
The Demon Trappers: Forsaken
by Jana Oliver
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars YA Urban fantasy with kick ass heroine, 17 Nov. 2012
The main protagonist Riley is a very independent and feisty young girl. Despite the fact that so many people don't think she can or should be a Demon Trapper, Riley is determined to prove them all wrong. She's had a hard life but she still keeps picking herself up and carrying on. It was also good to see a kick ass heroine cry and show her vulnerable side. I have to admit though, she might have meant well but her insistence of doing things her way and fend for herself (often to spite Beck) didn't always work out best.

I was impressed and surprised by the world building which was added in throughout the story. Riley lives in Atlanta, where poverty is rife, unemployment is the norm and people will steal anything and everything including odd bits of metal. Schools are run from old coffee shops because there is so little government funding. Oliver has taken the current economic climate and recession and pushed it into something dangerous, gritty and almost depressing. And in Riley's Atlanta, demons run riot. Usually they are on their own, but things have started to change. Most of these demons were pretty scary, able to whip up tornadoes and such. But I found myself liking the little magpie in Riley's apartments, because he didn't seem intentionally mean or horrible. In fact he seemed sweet and endearing, and I would have loved to seen him a bit more. I'm excited to see what happens with the demons in the next books - can the perceptions of them change, and can the demon vs demon hunter relationship change?

When it came to Beck, Riley was a bit of an idiot quite frankly. She couldn't get past the fact that he had 'rejected' her years ago and that he had a strong relationship with her father. She was mean to him, grumpy, and often judged his actions without thinking. With some parts of the story told by Beck, I could see that he was in fact a decent guy that had overcome some pretty horrible stuff. He was tough, rugged but protective of Riley. I may even go so far to say I liked him a lot.

The three main men in Riley's life were the aforementioned Beck, Simon her new boyfriend, and the mysterious Ori. Each was very different. Whilst Beck swigged down beers, Simon was thinking about the religious implications of things. Whilst I didn't begrudge him being religious in the slightest, his tendency to think that all demons were automatically evil rubbed me up the wrong way. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens between Riley, Beck, Ori and Simon, in their big love...square...?

Forsaken is a dark, kick ass urban fantasy and a great start to the Demon Trappers series.

Muddle and Win (Muddle & Win)
Muddle and Win (Muddle & Win)
by John Dickinson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking and funny book for older children, 17 Nov. 2012
Muddlespot has been sent on a mission of great importance: to turn Sally Jones to the dark side. For an overgrown wart that cleans up entrails, his promotion to special agent was a pretty big deal, but despite being taken out of his comfort zone he seemed to muddle his way through somehow. In fact Muddlespot was the most unsuspecting protagonist there is. At least I think he's the protagonist. Coming from Pandemonium, aka hell, he should be the antagonist. But for someone who lives in Pandemonium, he isn't really all that bad. In fact I rather liked him. I wish I knew more about him, but I'm not sure that you could know more about someone that has been grown from a wart by his evil master Corozin purely to clean up the left overs of the other special agents that fail.

It took me a while to realise that the 'Win' in the book title actually referred to Windleberry, a tuxedo wearing angel sent down to save Sally. With a Lifetime Deed Counter that absolutely no bad deeds, Sally is very special. And it is up to Windleberry to jump into Sally's head like some James Bond character and protect her from evil thoughts. I loved the way that Sally's organised and almost repressed brain and thoughts change, so that when Windleberry enters her brain, it's full of vandalised statues and graffiti. And I also liked the psychological element of the angels and demons influencing people and I could imagine people in the real world struggling with good and bad thoughts being feed to them from external forces before acting. Hearing little snippets of what was being whispered to Sally's teachers and mum was funny and you could see the point at which they sometimes broke and committed a bad deed.

The story takes a very blasé attitude to gore and violence. In Pandemonium, torture is commonplace, with fleshed peeled from bones and eyes literally rolling across the ground. I can imagine that some young boys would rather enjoy all the gory details and jokes within the text, but this may not be suitable for every young reader.

The idea of an angel and devil whispering away to the subconscious mind, isn't a new one. But the way John Dickinson has written Muddle and Win, and included such unusual characters, brings up so many questions and moral dilemmas. What makes someone good or bad? Can being bad be justified? Can you be bad but still be good? Maybe using the terms good and bad is too black and white. Sometimes standing up for yourself can seem like being bad, but for someone like Sally, who has always done everything other people's way, a bit of selfishness certainly wouldn't hurt her. Well, maybe. For younger readers, I think the book will be a good prompt to think about their own behaviour. It certainly made me think.

Sally's `naughty' sister, Billie couldn't do anything right. As we were introduced to the inner Billie, Scattletail, her resident demon, and Ismael, her guardian angel, I enjoyed seeing why Billie acts the way she does. At first she just seemed like the naughty, selfish one, but as I started thinking about how people and their actions interplay and rebound, I kind of felt sorry for her. She's always been compared to her sister and struggles to do anything as well. But when you get inside her head, the relationship between inner Billie, Scattletail and Ismael was much more balanced and relaxed and seemed like a lot more fun, especially when they played cards together.

Although I enjoyed the story overall, it seemed to take a long time for Muddlespot and Windleberry to both get inside Sally's mind. In fact the story was half way in, before any of the really interesting 'thought-persuasion' and angel versus demon dilemmas started.

Muddle and Win: The Battle for Sally Jones is a thought provoking book about good, bad and deeds somewhere in the middle.

by Sean Cummings
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.77

4.0 out of 5 stars Witty debut with a sassy young heroine, 17 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Poltergeeks (Paperback)
Sean Cummings writing style was the first thing that grabbed me when I started reading. It flows naturally, and perfectly encompasses Julie's character including her sassiness, wit and outspoken teen voice. It reads so naturally like a teenager that I instantly got a sense of what Julie's personality was like and I loved her.

Although I guessed pretty much from the outset what was coming at the end, I'm not sure if this was down to my extra good guessing abilities or easy to read plot/characters. Despite this there were still a few twists and surprises that threw me so that I still enjoyed the ending, and the plot overall was energetic and action packed. The premise behind the story has so much potential and I can see Julie getting into a whole host of adventures, or misadventures, in future books and I think it would work so well as a TV series.

The magical elements bring the story to life, with the grimoire passed down to Julie, her mother's collection of unusual smelling concoctions, the shadowcull legacy and don't forget a bit of grave digging.

After Julie, I liked Marcus the best. Because he provides the 'reasonable' and scientific perspective. He tries to fit magic into science and his understanding of the physical world, remains a little sceptical, but also makes steps to believing some of the crazy things that are happening around him.

Although it hadn't really crossed my mind at the time, Non at Catnip, pointed out how well the content and style for Poltergeeks would be appropriate for a younger Middle Grade age range. I think younger audiences would really relate to Julie, the confusing situation she is in with Marcus and their changing relationship. Although she's not popular in school, she is quirky, quick-witted and completely herself. For young girls I think she shines as a role model.

Poltergeeks is a sassy, funny, and thrilling YA debut.

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

4.0 out of 5 stars Fab heroes and villians, 17 Nov. 2012
When it came to understanding the people around her and putting two and two together, Clary was a little naive. Which meant that she sometimes frustrated me and she ended up in a love triangle without even realising it. Despite this, Clary was a very likeable character. She was quick witted and brave and would jump into situations to save the people she cared for. I loved the witty banter and repartee between her and Jace. Yes, Jace was cocky and arrogant. Very arrogant. But there was something undeniably magnetic about him. Perhaps it was the sense of humour that went with that arrogance, that made him more playful and fun. I could totally see why girls would be instantly attracted to Jace, but I think it helped that he was flawed and vulnerable like everyone else.

What I liked about the secondary characters within the Shadowhunting group, was that they all had very dynamic relationships with each other that took time to work out and understand. Isabelle and Alec were brother and sister and like family to Jace, but like Clary it was easy to imagine Jace and Isabelle getting together romantically. As an outsider, Clary kind of came in and disturbed the balance of the group which meant that there was some hostility towards Clary particularly because they considered her to be an ignorant human. Alec was the quiet, brooding one in the group, and at first his hostility towards Clary made me very wary of him, but as I discovered his hidden feelings I came to feel sorry for him and wished he could really embrace who he was. I really do hope that he can come out and not only accept himself for who he is but also be accepted by his family and the Shadowhunters in the rest of the series.

City of Bones had quite a complex plot and history to it. There were some plot developments that were glaringly obvious but Clary just didn't see, and a little part of me wanted to shake her and say "hurry up and catch on a bit quicker". Despite this there were plenty of shocking twists and turns that I hadn't expected, particularly at the end where I wanted to ask Cassandra Clare "why the hell did you do that?!". I'm not sure if I'm completely happy with the final turn of events in the book, so I will have to reserve judgment until I read the second book and see what happens. There was quite a lot of back story behind the Shadowhunters truce with `demons' which meant that at certain times, the story had to flashback to the past to catch us up on events through retellings by particular characters. At times this felt quite natural, but they were also parts when huge chucks of the past were filled in in one go, making the story a tad disjointed.

The Corpse-Rat King
The Corpse-Rat King
by Lee Battersby
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly absurd adventure, 17 Nov. 2012
This review is from: The Corpse-Rat King (Paperback)
Marius de Hellespont is a liar, cheat, thief and witty charmer. A little like Jack Sparrow, he seems to always land on his feet no matter what ridiculous situation he ends up in. And trust me, he ends up in a number of bizarre and unexpected circumstances, and usually on the wrong end of the law or moral compass. Particularly because he is now dead. Marius' initial response to his situation and duty to find a new king was to run away, and it makes him seem as cowardly and pathetic as you would expect a looter of the dead to be. Whilst his character developed and grew throughout the book, making Marius a just-about likable character, his daring, cunning and unreprehensible behaviour really made the story.

At first the writing tended towards the over descriptive, which sometimes slowed the plot down with its tangential diversions. But further into the book, the plot, dialogue and wit improved by bounds and had me chuckling away. In fact the story reminded me a little of the madcap adventures that befall Voltaire's character Candide in his book of the same name. Both plots have a philosophical bent to them and involve a series of rather absurd adventures and mishaps.

Although some of the secondary characters could have benefitted from a little more fleshing out to avoid them feeling one dimensional, my favourite character was King Nandus, who had a slightly strange (and possibly inappropriate) affection for horses. Found in the underwater wreck of his groundbreaking ship, the skeletal form of Nandus unfortunately takes on a few too many horse-like qualities, which made the story both humorous and endearing. The fact that the poor man didn't even realise the truth of his situation made it all the more pitiful and comical.

Despite the darker themes of death, deception and looting, overall the story had an underlying moral and spiritual emphasis, as Marius very slowly started to see the error of his ways. I loved the rather maccabre idea of the dead needing a king to rule their deathly kingdom, and being able to extend their deathly grip into the mortal realm to get Marius and Gerd to find them a ruler. What on earth would their job be as a King of the Dead?

The Corpse-Rat King is an absurd and fantastical tale of a man about to learn the error of his ways the hard way.

The Peculiar
The Peculiar
by Stefan Bachmann
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Descriptive fantasy, faery story, 17 Nov. 2012
This review is from: The Peculiar (Hardcover)
In The Peculiar, Bachmann has created an alternative England where a door to the faery world was once opened. This alternative world incorporates elements of Victorian England, gothic steampunk and magical fantasy, and is both wonderfully vivid in its opulence but also darkly dangerous. Since the destruction of Old Bath and the introduction of faeries to the country, there has been an uneasy alliance between humans, changelings (half humans half faeries), and the different types of faeries from sprites and gnomes to Sidhe. Neither side understands or trusts the other. And it is unfortunately the half bloods or changelings that bear the brunt of this prejudice and mistrust. I do love this world that has been built, but I do feel more could have been done to add depth and development to the characters.

My feelings towards Mr Jelliby are a little ambivalent. He's the kind of upper-class gentleman that doesn't like to rock the boat and is rather ineffectual. But despite the fact that he can be indecisive and cowardly, he doesn't just idly sit back and let events unfold without trying to intervene. I'm not fully convinced this was down to character development, and I did sometimes doubt the believability of his actions. Would such a nervous character really be able to step up as the hero without more persuasion than just thinking `well someone has to do it'?

Poor changeling Bartholomew and his little sister have been forced to live hidden away from everyone else. It is only when the curious Bartholomew spots a mysterious lady magically whisk away his young neighbour, that he sets out into the wide world. I felt I understood and liked Bartholomew a lot more, with his desire to have a fairy helper and yet even greater desire to protect his sister.

The story is written in third person from Bartholomew's and Mr Jelliby's perspectives. Occasionally the perspectives overlapped, to give an omniscient narration within the same chapter. I found this a little disconcerting, as my preference is to keep third person perspectives quite separate. Something that also stood out about the writing was that the story gave no context straight away to what the characters' motivations were. You are plunged straight into the story and have to figure out what is going on as the characters Bartholomew and Mr Jelliby do, and decipher what Mr. Lickerish might be up to. I actually liked this though, as I had to keep guessing and wondering how their paths might all cross and come together.

Despite some of the narrative and character niggles, I enjoyed The Peculiar as a visually splendid Victorian delight, mixing up steampunk and gothic, faery fantasy to create something that children will love.

Mystic City
Mystic City
Price: £3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, magical tale of forbidden love, 17 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Mystic City (Kindle Edition)
Mystic City has lots of references and parallels to Shakespeare, most particularly the forbidden love between two young people from rival families. I loved how this classic theme was paired with dystopian and paranormal elements; New York had been transformed into a futuristic Venice with the global-warming flooded streets in the Depths and its motorised gondoliers. With the contrast between luxurious high rises and the humble Depths, the setting was perfect for two star-crossed lovers to find each other.

I loved both Hunter and Aria. Aria, although brought up in a very wealthy and powerful family, was a sympathetic and caring person. Her family's power doesn't seem to have been built on honest foundations, and rather than go along with it and enjoy all the luxuries thrown at her, Aria was determined to find out the truth and fight for what was right no matter the consequences. I thought Aria and Hunter were a perfect pair and really wanted to see them together. Hunter was a mysterious, mystic rebel, combining a dark and dangerous side with a funny, charming and protective personality. I liked the way he teased Aria, and was a sensitive and caring person with real charisma. As an undrained mystic rebel, he was going against the city laws, but honestly who could blame him. He was standing up against the oppression and persecution of mystics which gave him a passionate, moral and slightly wild edge.

Although huge chunks of the plot were easy to foretell, I didn't mind because I was so invested in Hunter and Aria and their potential relationship. Their escapades to the Depths, especially during the old-fashioned carnival, were so romantic. When Aria was sneaky around and hiding from her family there was palpable tension and also plenty of mystery as Aria tried to fill in the missing gaps of her memory and figure out what the interesting little locket meant. This tension reached some big climaxes as she was discovered by her family and forced into some very horrible situations. Quite frankly I don't know how such a selfish, evil family brought up such an amazing girl!

Aria's friends were your typical spoilt socialites. They were selfish, ignorant and just a little annoying. Their speech included words like "upper" to describe anything cool. It definitely made the point that they were the popular girls, although it bugged me a little. But more importantly, their behaviour gave a strong contrast to Aria's; whereas they wanted to shop, eat and look good, Aria wasn't bothered attending parties or climbing the social ladder, caring instead about equality, fairness and truth. I did however love Turk, Hunter's best friend. He was witty, cool and cared about his friends, and I would much rather have him as a friend.

Mystic City is a gripping tale of forbidden love, magic, politics and fighting for what is right.

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