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Bex (United Kingdom)

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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: 3.85

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: 3.79

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: 5.99

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."

The End Games
The End Games
Price: 3.49

3.0 out of 5 stars Not Enough Bite., 23 Sept. 2015
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This review is from: The End Games (Kindle Edition)
"The game and it's bad guys will be different than he anticipated, not knowing that when he goes outside, he will see his neighbour being eaten."

This book sounded really good and I'd heard from a friend that it was; and it had some strong ideas, but I'm not taking recommendations from them again!

The premise for this book is strong - two young brothers, Michael and Patrick, are looking for the Safe Zone. What's that? A place where the remainder of the population who have gone all Walking Dead on them are presumed not to be. And just as a bit of extra motivation, Michael (the eldest of the two) thinks their mum would be there too. So begins their journey through "The Game" to the end "Safe Zone". What's the game? Well the brothers routinely receive instructions from the mastermind behind this whole ordeal, the Game Master, to help them finish the "level" they're on and get one step closer to the finish.

I thought that sounded great. But I had a few problems along the way. My major issue was the way it's actually written. Michael is 17 and Patrick is around 5 and the story is loosely written from Michaels head some of the time as we see him having conversations with himself Jekyll and Hyde style. I found this especially hard to get on with. Mostly because Michael is often depicted as a pretty immature 17 year old egging himself on and laughing at his own sarcasm. You probably need to read an extract first to be honest to see if you'd get on with this style.

My second issue was "The Game". I was really excited when I first started reading because the idea of two brothers being stuck in a game (Essentially Zombie Call of Duty) is really clever. Initially I was dying to know how the game came about, who the Game Master was and why he only gave them instructions of how to get to the safe zone after dark. And most importantly was it actually a video game, how were they chosen for it or put in it and how did the Game Master appear presumably like a hologram at random...or was it all some sort of mental breakdown imagined by Michael and Patrick. Anyway, when you get those answers about 25% of the way through its a pretty big letdown, all the fun was sucked right out of what I thought was a genius angle to take a zombie book on and the typical post apocalyptic routine played out.

Despite all of that, it's refreshing to see a book like this written almost like a video game to begin with. That kept me engaged for a good portion. Additionally, I thought Michaels character was pretty well imagined - his erratic behaviour and crafty nature in awkward situations stopped me from being frustrated; I often want to yell at a book when characters make stupid calls but he was fairly true to what I think any brother would be like in a sticky situation.

Which brings me nicely to the brother relationship in this book. I've never really imagined what it would be like in an apocalypse for children on their own and this was nicely crafted. I loved the way Michael took care of Patrick. It was unorthodox and sometimes didn't work but it was great to see how far kids would go to protect their family and how they might go about it within their own limited skills and knowledge - maybe video games aren't so bad if this resourcefulness is what they could create in kids!

A good idea which I think went off in the wrong direction for its intended audience but a solid read and an interesting take - I really strongly suggest trying to read an extract before you buy though; definitely not everyone's cup of tea. (Also, the zombies weren't scary at all).

The Bane Chronicles 11: The Voicemail of Magnus Bane
The Bane Chronicles 11: The Voicemail of Magnus Bane
Price: 0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Isabelle Is Seriously Funny., 22 Sept. 2015
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"The light woods are a seriously hot people, some people say the Herondales used to be hot, but think about it - not only do we outnumber them but we took their hottie and we made him ours. Obviously we won the victory."

I'll start by saying that to fully enjoy this and avoid any spoilers for the series you really need to have read city of lost souls before you delve into this novella because it focuses solely on the aftermath of an event in that particular book.

Moving swiftly on, the voicemails of Magnus bane features a few comic strip like pictures (I know, pretty cool right) and a series of voicemail extracts (obviously) left for Magnus from Alec Lightwood and a few other meddling kids.

A very short read even for a novella but entertaining and funny - definitely worth a quick read on your lunch break.

The Bane Chronicles 10: The Course of True Love (and First Dates)
The Bane Chronicles 10: The Course of True Love (and First Dates)
Price: 1.89

5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Worst First Date Ever!, 21 Sept. 2015
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"He wondered if Alec was aware that Magnus was three hundred years old and whether Alec was considering just how impotent one might become after that much time."

This tenth novella in the bane chronicles collection is another look into the relationship building between Alec Lightwood and Magnus. I loved them in the main series; their secret, whirlwind relationship keeps me hooked and I'm ashamed to admit I'm probably more invested in them than I am in the rest of the main characters which I doubt was Cassandra Clare's intention.

Magnus is usual such a cool cat, no pun intended, and to some extent Alec is pretty stoic and almost dull hiding in the shadows of the other shadow hunters. For that reason it was so refreshing to see Magnus uncomfortable and losing his cool on his first date with Alec - I loved every minute of it.

These two characters couldn't be more different but their terrible, and I mean catastrophically terrible, first date was the best worst first date I've ever read. It genuinely had be in stitches the whole way through.

For those of you who love the MALEC romance, you'll love this first date novella. Additionally, for fans of the series or just of Magnus and his novellas, we were led to be believe this was the final novella of this collection but fear not, there is another flamboyant instalment for is involving the voicemails of Magnus Bane. Keep your eyes peeled!

The Bane Chronicles 9: The Last Stand of the New York Institute
The Bane Chronicles 9: The Last Stand of the New York Institute
Price: 1.89

5.0 out of 5 stars Magnus Meets The Circle., 21 Sept. 2015
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Spanning from 1989 right through to 1993, this ninth novella gives us another insight into the Shadow-hunting world through the eyes of our always observant narrator - Magnus Bane.

This particular tale shows us the beginnings of Valentine and the formation of his Circle. I really enjoyed this novella, more so I think than any of the previous ones, because it was so detailed and gripping. I was on the edge of my seat trying to read as quickly as I could because I wanted to know what would happen to characters who I recognised from the main books. It's fantastic to see characters like Luke and Valentine when they were younger and to see how they became what they are. It was especially fun to see Luke because his character is so different to what we know of him now. A side story running in the background was also quite interesting.

A really brilliant addition to the main series but also to this novella collection; I can't recommend this one enough.

The Bane Chronicles 8: What to Buy the Shadowhunter Who Has Everything (And Who You're Not Officially Dating Anyway)
The Bane Chronicles 8: What to Buy the Shadowhunter Who Has Everything (And Who You're Not Officially Dating Anyway)
Price: 1.89

5.0 out of 5 stars A Light-Hearted, Fun Addition., 21 Sept. 2015
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"He was besotted. He was officially revolted by himself".

It's really hard not to love Alec and Magnus isn't it? Their complicated, mostly secret, relationship keeps me reading into the early hours and I love them! So I couldn't be happier that Cassandra Clare has written us an entire novella about them; the MALEC fans of the world will be very pleased. Magnus is so erratic in this book as he desperately scrambles to find a gift for Alec.

This novella focuses on Alec's birthday, his never-ending supply of "ugly sweaters", and Magnus' usual naughtiness of summoning demons and cleaning up other peoples mess! I really enjoyed Magnus' panicked conversations over birthday presents with Ragnor Fell and Catarina (two of my favourite minor characters); his friendships with both are hilarious!

A really fun, witty addition to what's been a lovely bunch of novellas so far. I was starting to worry they were becoming a little bit too serious for what I think should be a light-hearted novella collection but this one has proved me wrong. Definitely worth a read for fans of Magnus and Alec.

The Bane Chronicles 7: The Fall of the Hotel Dumort
The Bane Chronicles 7: The Fall of the Hotel Dumort
Price: 1.89

3.0 out of 5 stars Magnus and The Drug Boom., 16 Sept. 2015
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"When you lost someone to addiction - and he had lost many - you lost something very precious".

It's 1977, after Tessa and the antics of the Clockwork creatures; and yet again Magnus finds himself in a bit of a pickle when he's surrounded by vampires on a murderous frenzy who threaten to bring the already tenuous Accords agreement crashing down around all Downworlders. You already know where this leads Magnus, or rather, to whom...Camille.

I loved Camille in the main novels, she's a brilliantly mysterious, selfish and naughty character. I can never figure her out and she keeps me guessing. So imagine my disappointment when instead of the usually coy Camille, we're faced with an essentially over-fed blood-drunk Camille who couldn't be further from the character we're used to. But fear not, for Lady Camille is simply feeding off of drug users and the effects are starting to alter the vampires usually controlled behaviour.

The concept was actually pretty interesting because we haven't seen much of how the Vampires work in TMI or TMD in terms of being affected by the behaviour of humans, so this was a nice addition to the series. I have to admit though that, of all the novellas so far, this one just wasn't really up my street. I felt like very little happened and I don't think I gained too much from reading it. Despite this, I did think that Clare handled the idea of drugs and addiction in a unique way and I enjoyed her take on it - I just thought she could have tied it in with some more action or antics - Magnus seemed a bit irrelevant.

A good, quick read but not my favourite of the bunch so far.

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