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Bex (United Kingdom)
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Night of Cake and Puppets: A Daughter of Smoke and Bone Novella (Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy)
Night of Cake and Puppets: A Daughter of Smoke and Bone Novella (Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy)
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars "I am a Rabid Fairy. I am a Carnivorous Plant. I am Zuzana"., 21 Nov. 2015
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Night of Cake and Puppets is misrepresented as book 2.5 because it can be read anywhere after book 1, there are no spoilers thereafter and it's a simple enough story to not need any further back story should you read it immediately after book 1.

I don't think I'll be the first to say that Zuzana is a fantastic character. We learn in Daughter of Smoke and Bone that Zuzana is Karou's ever-loyal, witty friend and from Chapter 1 we all fell in love with her. This short novella is her story; the story of how she met her boyfriend.

I was slightly worried that I would feel like I was reading Karou's voice and not Zuzana's, as sometimes happens for me when I branch into a novella with a similar character taking the lead. Zuzana and Karou are similar. They're both feisty, they're both a little bit evil (In a fun way) and they are both hilarious. Fortunately Zuzana does have a really clear voice and I loved her even more within this novella than I did in the main stories.

This book is super funny, a little bit sassy and shows the vulnerability underneath Zuzana's tough exterior. It was lovely to see her narrating in an excitable or nervous way depending on the situation. I really enjoyed the new insight into her character and the inner workings of what she gets up to.

The big question for most readers though is cost. I've read an awful lot of YA novellas and I honestly think this is worth the money. It isn't as short, or doesn't feel it, as some novellas are although it does have a large portion designated for the first two chapters of Smoke and Bone so that's a downside. Something I did feel was a shame though was that despite how brilliantly funny and beautifully written this is, for some reason I didn't feel like it took off. I did enjoy it, but I wasn't tearing through the pages in anticipation like I usually would be in a novella.

Overall, a good fun read and I would read again between books. Hopefully they'll put together all of the novellas and short stories Taylor does along the way into book format so we feel we get a bit more for our money. Still, worth a read for fans of the trilogy.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy Book 1: 1/3
Daughter of Smoke and Bone: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy Book 1: 1/3
by Laini Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

5.0 out of 5 stars "Once Upon a Time, An Angel and a Devil Fell in Love. It Did Not End Well.", 20 Nov. 2015
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Daughter of Smoke and Bone has been on my "To-Read" pile for such a long time. Throughout the time most of my friends and fellow readers have been gushing about how great it is. For some reason I didn't buy into the craze, maybe I wanted to not follow the crowd or something independent and cool, so decided to wait for a bit. What. An. idiot.

I was fully expecting to be smacked in the face with a pretty standard dystopian. Sometimes I like a good old dystopian. This is not that book. It is so much better.

Set in the beautifully woven streets of Prague, we are introduced to Karou. A blue-haired art student who fills her time scribbling down her drawings of imaginary mythical creatures with hybrid appearances and magical capabilities. But Karou has a secret. Her drawings are not an art students imaginings at all. They are real.

You see Karou works for Brimstone. A hybrid creature of epic proportions. Brimstone, in fact, is basically her family having raised her from a baby with the help of his three fellow hybrid companions residing in his shop. Ever since she can remember Karou has been running errands for her ever-mysterious care giver. And not normal errands like taking out the rubbish or cleaning her room. Karou finds teeth, brings them back to Brimstone and has no clue whatsoever what he then proceeds to do with them. But it's okay, because she does so in the coolest way imaginable - she opens numerous doors, but essentially portals, into different countries and continents across the globe. That's right, Karou's illegal transportation of teeth doesn't just stay in Prague!

Sadly for Karou her adventures are about to come to an end as black hand prints begin to appear in the doorways to her portals and one by one the portals begin to be destroyed. And this is a problem for Karou, because her payment comes in the form of wishes. And she's pretty fond of using them to her advantage - namely making her pompous ex-boyfriends butt (and other things!) itch in public. So why is this happening? Well, there's an ancient feud between chimera (Brimstone-esk creatures) and the Seraphim (Angelic creatures).

You might be wandering how a girl of 17 could possibly get away with such mischief in so many countries without getting into trouble. And this is where the wish concept comes in. What a great concept. So there are types of wishes within this world from Scuppies and Shings (pretty rubbish ones) to Gavriels (Life changing ones) and Karou is sometimes rewarded with them after her pursuit of teeth. Some of which she squanders on blue-hair! But others she uses more to her advantage - like becoming multi-lingual. I love this concept, especially when used against her irritating classmates, and I love that Taylor has introduced a new language to us in the form of wishes.

Karou is the most exciting female lead I've been lucky enough to pick up in a while. She's observant, she's witty and she doesn't fall into the typical doe-eyed pretty girl category. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that Karou is sassy. I loved it. She uses her magic/wishes in brilliantly funny ways, I love how she doesn't fall for her player of an ex-boyfriends charm and instead plays evil tricks on him from time to time. One of the things I enjoyed most actually about her character was that some of her dialogue was genuinely laugh out loud funny. It's embarrassing to laugh in a train station isn't it? But I couldn't help myself.

As I mentioned, the world building is fantastic. I haven't come across Laini Taylor before but she's definitely won herself a new fan because her writing is beautiful. I was sucked into the various worlds so quickly and became completely immersed by her characters and her creations so whole heartedly.

Some of the concepts are really exciting too. The hybrid creatures/chimera are a unique twist on Dystopian fiction for me and some of the mythology she uses to describe their existence is compelling. Taylor actually does something really interesting with the theory of monsters in this book and dares to question what constitutes a true monster, are they always grotesque and ugly? It really had me thinking. It's so refreshing for the angelic creatures to not always be the good guys!

"It's a condition of monsters that they do not perceive themselves as such."

I especially liked that Taylor ventured into new territory and made angels pretty ugly. Not all of them I admit, but some of the usual tactics YA authors play to sell their pretty characters were not evident in this book and I can't emphasise enough how great it is to have a different spin on things for once.

The actual plot that I've just laid out for you though is really only relevant for the first half of the book because the second half could be a completely different book. The mythology becomes much heavier, which reads beautifully, and a number of different stories and worlds become woven into the original story you thought you'd signed up for. At this point I think Taylor runs the risk of losing some readers. It is hard to keep up sometimes and it genuinely doesn't seem to flow like a standard novel might as it strays away entirely from an exciting adventure into more of a love story. For me it worked, I thought that was a great twist and even when I thought I had guessed the eventual turning points and plot changes, I really hadn't.

It's at this point that I would usually embellish on the romance and it's developments. I feel like if I did this I'd be spoiling the story and potentially the surprise. For this reason, all I'll say is that Akiva, a representative of the Seraphim is a great character and has lots of interesting stories. I liked how he was used to explore if monsters realise they are monsters and if there are even monsters at all. Let's be honest, we've seen Angels done to death and they're all pretty much the same. He doesn't fit the mould at all of the usual love interest, aside from being beautiful, and I adored his story.

Okay, so there is something I didn't like despite all of the embarrassing gushing I've subjected you to. The editing errors within the Kindle edition are pretty noticeable towards the end of the book. Mostly it's the odd missing word or incorrect spelling so nothing major, but it did start to annoy me. Having said this, I haven't read the tree-book version so this may be different. But I mean, if that's the biggest issue I had then you're on to a winner I'd say!

It is true that what you see is NOT what you get with this book. So if you think that's not for you then opt out now, but I personally thought the ideas were unique, exciting and the new take and insight into a unique world full of unrequited love and good versus evil was exactly what I was looking for. You have to read this. I can't wait to see what Taylor comes up with in the sequel.

Price: £6.17

3.0 out of 5 stars Not Enough Bite., 9 Nov. 2015
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This review is from: V-Wars (Kindle Edition)
When you think of a collection of short stories you might assume that V-Wars would fit into the typical layout - lots of standalone tales all with a similar theme. In this case V-Wars actually isn't following the typical format; I much preferred this. In essence we have a pretty normal book with one plot in the same world split into chapters told by various different authors. I really liked this idea and although sections are told by different authors it ties in really well and you don't notice massive jumps in the narrative.

We're thrown into a pre-vampiric world initially whereby people are becoming infected for no apparent reason. The interesting thing about this novel compared to other vampire novels is that it has a kind of genetic twist to it which keeps you hooked for quite some time. Essentially, vampirism is considered a virus which targets certain humans with recessive "Junk-DNA" which predisposes them to catching the virus. As the virus becomes more embedded in the host, physiological and phsycological changes begin to happen. The first half of this book looks at this pretty much in its entirety through a number of different humans who have been affected.

A concept I really enjoyed was that not all vampires are the same. In fact, this book introduces us to loads of different types of vampires. From those that can only feed on their loved ones (so a pretty short lived species), to those that hate being vampires, love being vampires or black out and appear to be possessed by some other creature taking over their bodies. It's all edge-of-your-seat madness!

I think if you're looking at this book, you'll be immensely pleased to know that these aren't the in-your-face nice, sparkly vampires of this generation. Fortunately they're actually pretty grim! There's a large play on the eroticism of vampirism for both the vampire and the victim which is definitely not PG rated. Additionally, the complications that arise from even being a vampire are much better explored than in most books of this nature. For example, with a growing knowledge of vampires for the population what does this mean for the vampire? Will they be ostracised? Are they considered criminals? If it's genetic, can we prevent it? Can we use it for good? Essentially, this book looks at the effect on the masses in what I felt was a much more realistic approach to what I imagine a global vampire epidemic would actually be like, as opposed to becoming a vampire and somehow the general population never bats an eye or questions anything.

Unfortunately, although I think the premise is really fantastic I did feel like there was just something missing. Although the stories each tie in pretty seamlessly, there is sometimes a more hard-going chapter or two which definitely brings the whole novel down. A couple of chapters seem to be repeated in so far as, we don't learn anything new and we just keep revisiting how people become vampires. I would have liked to have seen the global epidemic in a bit more detail and had more focus on what the government and police were doing rather than watching talk show hosts perpetually eating people. To be honest, I usually love the gore but it was getting so repetitive that I have to admit to finding some of the characters a little bit boring and more difficult to enjoy reading about.

There are some really strong chapters, particularly those written by Maberry about the junk DNA and "Patient Zero". Patient zero was actually the most interesting character for me and these chapters didn't seem long enough compared to some of the seemingly endless paragraphs from other sections. Additionally, there are a couple of unique ideas which I was definitely interested to find out more and probably the reason I kept reading. For example, vampires during pregnancy was a notable one. It was great to see how this affected the vampire mother and to wait and see what the outcome a pregnancy in an infected host would be.

Overall, this is a unique take on vampirism and a great insight into a more realistic vampire epidemic. I love the portrayal of the gory truth of the vampire and the real world applications. Having said that, I think some of the writing let down the more exciting segments and this made for quite a long read when usually these kind of books are quick to be devoured. If you're a vampire fan and the kind of reader who won't leave a book unfinished, then the commitment to keep reading is worth it in the end. If you get bored or lose interest easily, this might not be for you.

The Best Ever Retro Sweets GIANT Treasure Gift Box - The Original Sweet Shop in a Box! - Jam Packed With the Best, Most Mouthwatering Retro Sweets. Perfect Inexpensive Birthday Gift, Get Well Soon, Congratulations, Christmas Present, Secret Santa or Anniversary Present. Hamper Ideas For Him and Her: Boys & Girls, Mums & Dads, Men & Women of All Ages.
The Best Ever Retro Sweets GIANT Treasure Gift Box - The Original Sweet Shop in a Box! - Jam Packed With the Best, Most Mouthwatering Retro Sweets. Perfect Inexpensive Birthday Gift, Get Well Soon, Congratulations, Christmas Present, Secret Santa or Anniversary Present. Hamper Ideas For Him and Her: Boys & Girls, Mums & Dads, Men & Women of All Ages.
Offered by Chocolate Buttons
Price: £15.85

5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Gift For Dad., 8 Nov. 2015
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It's become a kind of tradition now that every Christmas I treat my dad to a box of retro sweets. Every year he's super happy and spends all of Boxing Day eating the entire box; to the extent that he looks pretty queasy by the end of the experience!

A great present for him as he gets to enjoy the nostalgia these sweets bring for him. But also good fun for me, I've never seen some of these sweets before and it's really great to see what I was missing out on.

Definitely recommend as a great gift idea - it's a substantial size and fun for all the family to share (if your dad isn't as greedy as mine that is!).

A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird)
A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird)
by Claudia Gray
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars What If You Could Be All The Versions Of Yourself In One Lifetime?, 6 Nov. 2015
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This is one of those covers that makes you stop in a bookshop or resist scrolling further down the recommended books on the screen isn't it? It's beautiful. The question is whether you should have resisted or whether you need to read this as soon as you can.'s somewhere in the middle.

This book has everything I could have possibly asked for - a mysterious murder, a convincing plot and multiple dimensional travel (and a gorgeous cover!). Perfect. So what's the deal? Marguerite Caine, the daughter of two of the worlds most talented physicists wants revenge. Her big brained physicist parents have developed some mind blowing technology; The Firebird. What's that? Well it's a unique pendant that can be used to allow the users consciousness to travel to a different dimension. Infinite dimensions actually. Not only this but it has some other clever tricks too including the ability to "remind" the user of who they are when their consciousness starts to slip into that of the alternate version of themselves. Which is all brilliant (if slightly confusing), until Paul Markov, a family friend and intern to the Caine's, steals the Firebird technology, kills Marguerite's father and then jumps into another dimension to hide! So what's a girl, and her attractive, physics-minded friend, to do but to follow the murderer into multiple dimensions until she can seek vengeance and kill the man who killed her father.

The opening few paragraphs of this book are mind-blowing. Marguerite is initially so set on revenge that her character is interesting, angry and kept me hooked from the start. I absolutely loved how hell bent she was on following Paul, someone she considered her friend, into multiple dimensions to kill him. What a great start. I especially enjoyed that Marguerite was conflicted about her friend-turned-murderer and thought Gray demonstrated this really cleverly.

The explanation of the physics of the Firebird and multi-dimensional travel was kind of glossed over and the lack of information blamed on Marguerite's ignorance of physics. In some ways this made it more accessible, a little bit funny, and the simplistic representation of travelling through dimensions via your consciousness was easier to understand in this way. I did think it was a bit of an easy way out and made Marguerite seem a little less observant as a narrator but I think Gray got away with it enough for the concept still to work.

However this next line sums up my most favourite parts of this book, but also encompasses what I felt was its biggest pitfall:
"I would love you in any shape, in any world, with any past. Never doubt that".

It's really important to take note that this is ostensibly a love story, NOT a murder mystery. Equally it's important to note that because of this it isn't the fast-paced adventure you might have imagined but rather is a slow burner. Initially when you read the blurb it's easy to be pulled in by the interesting premise and the sci-fi twist on it. Despite the fact that this book does deal with the murder, it's barely mentioned and the book swiftly becomes a starry-eyed romantic chase. And I'm not at all saying this is a bad thing, but it certainly wasn't what I was expecting. It did however deliver me the most exciting idea from this book: Wouldn't it be interesting to meet all the different variations of yourself? Who are you in a different life? What if you hadn't met that person you thought was the one? Or were you always meant to in every lifetime? Is there really such a thing as fate? This absolutely fascinated me and I couldn't stop it running through my mind hours after the story finished. For this reason alone I think this is a must-read and I will certainly be reading the sequel.

However, within the same vein, I really wish this had been explored more. The seed was planted, absolutely, but it wasn't really grown apart from my own mind venturing into the various implications of what it would mean to be able to become all of these people at once. I really wish we had been shown the full impact that multi-dimensional travel could have, but instead our characters are jumping into dimensions sometimes extremely different from their own and seem to seamlessly fit into them without really exploring how the worlds differ or how Marguerite seems to know what every version of herself knows without being told. Just a lot of opportunities missed I think which is such a shame.

I also felt as the story progressed and became more about falling in love with the same person regardless of dimension rather than about solving a murder, Marguerite became less interesting. She was so besotted and so focussed on the one she loved that her murdered father seemed to be forgotten until he popped up as another version of himself from time to time. I did think when he was shown in other dimensions that the way Gray handled this was confident and well developed, but it was lost amongst all of the starry eyed teenage angst.

Despite this, I think this book has an awful lot to offer a reader. The concept is genuinely great even despite not being explored enough. Additionally, I really did like the characters and the story developed well along with them. I don't think this book is for those people really wanting to explore what the potential of multi-dimensional travel is, it is a love story, but it's a very good love story with a cool twist and I highly recommend it.

Throne of Glass: 1
Throne of Glass: 1
by Sarah J. Maas
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.49

4.0 out of 5 stars "How About The Story Of The Idiotic Prince Who Won't Leave The Assassin Alone?", 26 Oct. 2015
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This review is from: Throne of Glass: 1 (Paperback)
I attempted to read this book a few months back and I just couldn't get into it but after weeks of seeing positive reviews on Goodreads I thought maybe I'd missed the point and gave it another go. I'm so happy I trusted other reviewers and went for it because I was completely missing out on what I think will be a really amazing set of books.

Throne of Glass is the first in what appears to be a well imagined fantastical series with multiple novellas and sequels so I usually take this to mean it's going to be good. It was, but I did have a few complaints. Like many readers I absolutely loved the world building. This is my second Maas book and it's clear that she writes beautifully; so much so that I get sucked right into her worlds and never want to leave. I particularly loved the archaic, Royals run, vibe; I haven't read many fantasies (I know, I'm a loser) but this book has really made me want to and was, I imagine, a really gentle ease into this sort of read. For these two reasons alone, I have to recommend this book despite a few flaws and inconsistencies which I'll go into later.

So what is it actually about? This first instalment introduces us to Celeana Sardothian, a well accomplished and practically famous assassin imprisoned within a part of the Kingdom used to essentially imprison and enslave wrong doers as a punishment for their crimes. Celeana however has the fortune of being a very good assassin, she'll tell you herself (my number one gripe), and makes a deal with the Prince of Adarlan (who seems perfectly lovely) to compete in his fathers competition against other warriors and assassins to be the Kings personal assassin. If she should win she will work for the King for four years and in doing so will earn her freedom. Which seems a perfectly good deal to Celaena - the closer she gets to the King, the greater her chances of killing him.

Celaena however was also the main problem I had the first time around. She's feisty, opinionated and an observant narrator - the makings of a brilliant character. Sadly, she's also a bit too obnoxious, arrogant and self riteous to actually feel too excited about her. This is most evident in the first few chapters, and the main reason I gave up initially, but if you soldier on this actually softens off considerably. Additionally, Celaena is also a walking contradiction. She proclaims to be a strong willed, independent, almost callous character due to her horrific past but later has an immense capacity for empathy and a need to be desired that rivals many female protagonists I've read of in a while. I actually preferred this version of her so I'm not saying I disliked this, but I found her confusing and the "say one thing, do another thing entirely" concept was a bit annoying sometimes. I tried to forgive this and assume it was deliberate, but upon reflection I think Maas just made a mistake. I'm all for kick-ass heroines who can fight their corner, but not if they're kick-ass one moment and starry eyed over a prince they're supposed to loathe the next.

Despite these issues, I did really enjoy this book and I will definitely have a read of the next in the set. Although Celaena didn't grow on me especially, her story did and the supporting characters were interesting. The sneak peeks of magic and the insight into the Fey are things that I can't wait to see develop into the following books and I won't risk saying anything further for risk of ruining the fun of it. I loved that Maas barely gave anything away, I was kept guessing and interested throughout - enough to forgive the slightly arrogant Celaena. I also actually quite enjoyed the love triangle/square, which I would usually hate; the prince is easily developing into a book crush for many readers by the looks of things.

A good read with lots of brilliant world building and fantastic ideas; I can't wait to read the next instalment. I just hope that our assassin becomes a little more grounded and sticks to her guns.

A Court of Thorns and Roses (Court of Thorns & Roses Tril 1)
A Court of Thorns and Roses (Court of Thorns & Roses Tril 1)
by Sarah J. Maas
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

5.0 out of 5 stars I Loathe Re-tellings., 2 Oct. 2015
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Never mess with faeries. It's rule number one for books like this isn't it? And Feyre obviously hasn't read as many of these books as we have because that's exactly what she does within the first two chapters. I want to quickly say before I start this review, I genuinely hate retellings and reading this was purely based on a cheap deal on a kindle sale day. I've never been so shocked at how wrong I was about a book.

Once, there was a village not so different to the average village. Except it was ruled by faerie overlords, of sorts. But the faeries became greedy and cruel; they abused the villagers and eventually fled the village leaving the village in disrepair and the villagers were left with little but fear and hatred of the Fey. Despite the reduced numbers, Feyre is unlucky enough to put herself in the debt of the Fey and is forced to leave her family to fend for themselves and follow the Fey into their territory to repay her debts.

Honestly, until a good way into this book it didn't even register with me that this was a redo of Beauty and the Beast - because it really is so different. So much so, I think it could have developed into quite a lot of different, interesting stories before it became this retelling. This is what I think makes it unique. Most retellings I find so boring; we already know the story so you've got to really impress to make it something different and worth reading and even then it's pretty impossible to keep the reader interested, But this was just that. A unique book I wish I'd never known had anything to do with Beauty and the Beast because it's so much more.

There are a number of things that made this book unique and enjoyable when typically it shouldn't have been. The world building is fantastic. This is my first book from this author but it certainly won't be my last now - she made my imagination go crazy. The world that Feyre comes from initially is bleak, typically dystopian and relatively loveless and although it was well written, very much so, I started to see that typical pattern and my attention was lost a bit. But I was so wrong because the world beyond the wall is not uninteresting or typical at all. It is beautiful, exciting and full of mysteries.

I loved that there are different kinds of faeries in this book in all sorts of forms from ordinary animals to eccentric and fantastical creatures. This was so exciting and meant that you just never knew who to trust. Maas' character building skills are brilliant.

I hate drippy, boring characters who suffer from Insta-Love and have no real grit about them. Feyre is interesting, an observant narrator, feisty and kept me on my toes for once. The remaining two main characters, Tamlin and Lucien, were so well depicted. I especially couldn't get enough of Lucien; a truly hilarious character. Tamlin is a fantastic beast, very well developed, mysterious enough to keep me interested and an easy book crush. This isn't a PG rated book and some of the scenes will get you hot under the collar!

If you, like me, fell into the trap of reading all the "it's a Beauty and the Beast retelling" like others similar in nature and you thought, "Yeah, I know I'm not going to love this then", then please don't put this book back on the shelf or scroll past it on Amazon. Once I realised this was a retelling I expected to know what was coming. And there are moments you can guess at if you know the classic tale, but it's so far removed from it that I was actually surprised quite a lot. You won't be getting anything at all like the story you know, it's just got similar characters. I've not enjoyed a retelling ever, until now, and that is testament to how strong this book is. I definitely recommend it, especially if you've never read a book by this author before because she writes beautifully.

Gravity (The Taking)
Gravity (The Taking)
Price: £0.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Action Packed; A Great Start To The Series., 27 Sept. 2015
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"You are deciding between surviving or the total elimination of your kind. How can you not see that? This isn't a fair fight. You. Can't. Win."

The year is 2140. At ten years old you watch a video with the president. This video tells you that World War IV led to the destruction of Earth. Earth was so destroyed that mankind could not survive for long enough to reform it. So an Ancient Civilisation, Aliens to you and me, made a deal with the humans. They would rebuild Earth and allow us to live here, for a price. At ten years old, after watching your video, you are given a Patch. This Patch covers your eyes so that you do not see the creature you have been assigned. An Ancient creature who, at night, takes some of your antibodies. Every night.

You see, Aliens aren't quite cut out for Earth just yet and would not survive there without us. What happens if you take the Patch off? Who knows what you will see, but the punishment is a high dose of memory serum. Some people have disappeared. Others haven't lived to tell the tale. But Ari's alien is Jackson Locke. Who apparently isn't a human after all. So why is he pretending to be? And how many others are there hiding amongst the humans? Ari should never have peeked.

I love the ideas within this book, I've never been big on aliens but done right they're pretty interesting. We're given a really good introduction to how the war came about, what the current state of Earth is and how humans contacted aliens to get this ball rolling. I think often with fantastical books like his this, explanations like this get missed out or are given piecemeal, so I really liked this.

I also liked Jackson. Don't believe the blurb though, he's not at all what he's made out to be and I didn't buy into his fake arrogance at all. But actually what you get is better, even if it wasn't deliberate. I think that the whole Aliens-look-like-humans thing was a bit of a shame because it would have been more interesting to learn about how they work and what they really look like. I understand how this might not have allowed this story to happen given that they're meant to be disguised. But I also think that if aliens are supposed to be so much more advanced than humans they should have a better disguise than appearing almost human with "golden skin" and slightly odd coloured eyes. I would have thought a species so advanced would be beyond that; seems a bit silly. Nevertheless, I did like the Ancient creatures despite this set back and enjoyed learning about them and their quirks.

I'm still not sure I actually liked Ari though. I couldn't connect with Ari, I was so frustrated that she just blindly trusted a guy who is essentially her families enemy. Who does that? And I get that it's for the greater good and all that, but she didn't know that to begin with and my biggest issue with protagonists is when they don't ask enough questions and hold their own in ascertaining the answers. Which is ironic given that she's meant to be a tough girl who beats up boys to prove her worth in her future role as a commander! Which leads me to question, why would someone whose literally been trained for the military her entire life not see this as a potential threat and instead back down to another species almost within the first five minutes and betray her family, not to mention her species? Just didn't add up completely for me.

Despite this, I was really hooked throughout. I devoured it actually. So it is definitely a good read, and a strong story with a fast plot and action throughout, it just would have been nice to feel a bit more connected to Ari without feeling like she was a massive idiot sometimes. Maybe that will develop over the coming books.

I've never read anything by Melissa West before, but I really enjoyed her writing style. It didn't come across as YA at all and her attention to detail was great so I was pulled into the story without even realising. What's evident is that she has tons of fantastic ideas, with some surprising twists, and I think what happened here is that rather than refining a few of them she just gave us them all. I'm going to take this as a sign of potential for the next instalments and hopefully they'll be really great. A good, solid first book full of action in what looks to be a great set. I'm looking forward to seeing where she takes us with the next instalment.

Before I Die
Before I Die
by Jenny Downham
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.44

4.0 out of 5 stars Not Just Another Cancer Story., 25 Sept. 2015
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This review is from: Before I Die (Paperback)
"Most of the time it's like being stalked by a psycho, like I might get shot any second. But some times I forget for hours".

Tessa is 16, has leukaemia and is terminally ill so she decides to write a list of all the things she wants to do before she dies. You know this because you've read the blurb which half enticed you to check out people's actual opinions on this book and here's mine - before YOU die, you must read this book.

What the blurb doesn't tell you is this: This book isn't about Tessa. Not really. She's just telling you the story. This book is about taking risks, making choices and the family we leave behind. It tackles enormous issues when faced with death, more so than the actual dying part, and it leaves you to decide what it really is to be alive. Not to be dying; to be living. Rather than telling you to feel sorry for the dying and smacking you in the face with all of that, this book let me understand (similar to My Sisters Keeper by Picoult) that there's more to it than that.

I read the blurb, the boyfriend on the list thing, and I fully expected a really immature read with a lot of sad, gut wrenching narrative. Which, given that we're dealing with a teenage girl with leukaemia, would be what I'd signed up for. And some of it is just that. But this book is much, much more. It's intelligent. Most books of this nature don't ask many difficult questions. They usually deal with how the patient is doing, how the family are coping but they don't often dare to ask controversial questions.

"Live fast, die young, have a good looking corpse!"

This one does. I was pleasantly surprised and really engaged from the first chapter when questions of religion were tackled. It's subtle, but it's there. The subtlety is what impressed me most. I began to question what religion, and God, means to a person when they're dying. But more so, to a child. I could write for days on just how a few simple passages really resonated with me, but the point I'm trying to make is that this book made me think. And I loved that. What also resonated with me was the cancer-related humour. This, in a real world, situation would genuinely shock me if I heard people mocking a 16 year girl with leukaemia about her eventually death. But Tessa, her friends and her family don't take cancer seriously. They're hilarious actually. This is so refreshing and has really stuck with me.

A character who stuck with me is Tessa's little brother Cal. He is hilarious. I love how Jenny Downham has depicted a child of his age altering from being terrified of his sister dying which we see flickers of, to joking about when she's dead because he wants to go on holiday! He's such a fantastic character and I love the teamwork that him and Tessa show when they scheme against their parents.

Religion wasn't the only risk I felt this author took. And neither was daring to mock cancer. I adored her take on risks and chance. She used Tessa as a fantastic voice to encourage the reader to see that dying has no consequences. That Tessa takes risks because she has nothing to lose in her eyes. This is a thought that's never occurred to me when I think about terminal illness or even just dying as a whole.

The problem I had with this book though and the reason for my four stars was Tessa. I didn't find her to be likeable at all, and I wasn't especially connected to her and her story. I love the message and I love how it's presented to the reader, but I just couldn't connect with Tessa. Or any of the key characters to be honest. Aside from Cal, I didn't even like any of them. So as much as I do recommend you read this, don't expect to fall in love with the characters like you might do with similar books of the genre.

This is ultimately a book about the luck of the draw. Some people are lucky to have clear skin, to be curvy in the right places, to naturally be gorgeous, athletic or intelligent. Genetics play a part, but nature is a deciding factor and we all roll the dice. Jenny Downham asks questions of us through Tessa and makes us think. I'm so impressed with the delicacy but also the stark bluntness of this book - a funny, thoughtful book that should be on your bucket list. I love a book that makes me question and challenge what I think. I think you will too.

Red Rising
Red Rising
by Pierce Brown
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You Think You've Seen It All? Try This., 24 Sept. 2015
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This review is from: Red Rising (Paperback)
"You and I are Gold. We are the end of the evolutionary line. We tower above the flesh heap of man, shepherding the lesser colours. You have inherited this legacy."

I read the first two pages of this book and I already knew I would love it; it's one of those where you just know immediately and you can sigh with relief. I'm so pleased it was because I haven't been this excited about a book in a while - and not for lack of trying! For this reason I apologise now for the incoming essay.

Set on Mars, mostly in an underground mining colony, are the Reds. A colony of people with a job - to dig. Darrow, our fantastically witty male lead, is the youngest driller (known as HellDivers) to have been seen in his colony at the ripe age of 16 (ripe enough in fact to already have been married off as all 16 year old boys are).

Think of colours as social standing. Reds like Darrow are effectively labourers, Greys are soldiers and the Golds are the leaders. Obsidians are the black helmeted killers essentially doing the Golds dirty work. Opposing them are the Sons of Ares, a rebel group intent on destroying the Golds and preventing progression into life on Mars. Because, as you might expect, the leaders take advantage of the "lesser classes" and the Sons of Ares do not support the assumed slavery of the Reds. In this case the Reds are made to drill in order to excavate Helium 3, and this helium 3 is being used to reform Mars so that it is habitable for the "softer colours". There's a big emphasis on how brave and noble Reds are to sacrifice themselves to make a better place for other colours, and most of the Reds don't feel too put out by it, including Darrow. But I'm sure you've figured out this self sacrificing behaviour was not a choice.

Darrow is a great character, with a lot of grit which is something this genre has been missing I think. However, the real star of the book for me is Eo, his wife, quietly calculating, smart and a genuinely interesting character; the catalyst for this whole book.

"But I am no Gold. I am a Red."

From the moment she becomes this catalyst the book takes a fantastic turn into the world of the Golds. How do you become a Gold and what could you do with all that power? Could you bring down the entire system? Darrow endeavours to find out and must undertake a series of trials and gruelling challenges (some to the death) in order to be selected as one of the elite. But a Red could never compete, could never be a Gold, so Darrow must mask his identity and hope he isn't rumbled along the way.

"And I promise, of those among you, only those fit for power will survive."

Similar to a number of dystopians at the moment, there are a few running themes. There are multiple colonies within this world (You could say like Factions or Districts) each with a different purpose but all with the same goal - to help reform Mars. Those that do the best each season win extra rations for their colony (I know, smacks of Hunger Games). Try to look past these cliche Dystopian pitfalls here, I promise more than anyone these drive me bonkers usually, but if you cling to that similarity and give up you'll miss out on a great book. I usually would be so frustrated by the cliches I'd give up, but it's worth it this time.

Recently I've found dystopians to be a bit too much and lost my desire to even read one, but this one is quite subtle, it leaves you to make up your own mind about things without throwing poverty and suffering under your nose all the time and force feeding you opinions and crazy ideas. To be honest, I just think this book has real bite. It's witty, cheeky and actually quite brave - equally it's not PG13 that's for sure so something to consider maybe before buying for younger readers, although it's mostly euphemism and clever metaphor rather than in your face naughtiness.

My favourite part of this book was the bravery I felt the author showed; I think some big risks were taken to write a book with ideas close to well established books in this genre and then, in my opinion, totally blow them all out of the water. I fully expected a typical, routine read with nothing new. Instead I was pulled into Mars. I love the writing style, some passages were grim and made my teeth hurt, they felt so real. You should read this. If you, like me, thought this was same old, same old, then take the plunge. I didn't regret it for once!

"I was forged in the bowels of this hard world. He is wrong. None of them will survive."

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